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Pilot Awards

Funded Pilot Awards

Year 1

Connect for Caregivers. Sally Norton, PhD, RN, Principal Investigator.

Connect for Caregivers is a mixed-methods intervention development study. The study involves qualitative interviews with caregivers who report loneliness, as well as a sample who report feeling socially connected, in order to understand the common barriers caregivers face to feeling social connected and satisfied with their relationships. This information will be used to develop and pilot test a card sort task that functions as a prioritization tool to assist caregivers and those helping them (e.g., aging services care managers) identify personal barriers to connectedness. Completing this intervention will assist caregivers in making informed choices about the strategies most likely to be effective for them given their particular set of goals and challenges. This intervention could serve as starting point and foundation for additional interventions if needed. Data collection is complete for this study and data analysis is underway. Results will be reported here soon!

Engage Psychotherapy to Promote Connectedness in Caregivers (“Social Engage”), Kimberly Van Orden, PhD, Principal Investigator.

Social Engage for Caregivers is also a mixed-methods intervention development study. The objective is to tailor a flexible behavioral intervention to assist caregivers in goal setting and problem solving around barriers. Social Engage psychotherapy will be adapted for caregivers in this study because it is easy to learn on the part of both interventionists and patients and can be flexibly adapted to the caregiving context. Social Engage psychotherapy can serve as the second foundational intervention for the STAR interventions portfolio. Data collection is complete for this study and data analysis is underway. Results will be reported here soon!

Year 2

Conexión para Latinos (Connection for Latinos), Caroline Silva, PhD, Principal Investigator

Hispanics/Latinos are expected to constitute 22% of the older adult population in the United States (U.S.) by 2060 and approximately half of U.S. Hispanic/Latino older adults mainly speak Spanish. Despite this, there are few interventions developed for Hispanic/Latino caregivers that are culturally attuned and available in Spanish, and none have reduced loneliness. The study objective is to extend the STAR Center foundational interventions developed in Year 1—the prioritization tool (“Connect for Caregivers”) and Engage Coaching—for Hispanic/Latino and Spanish-speaking caregivers, as well as culturally-tailor and test Engage coaching to increase social connection for this population.

Mindfulness for Caregivers, Autumn Gallegos, PhD, Principal Investigator

This study will apply an innovative technological approach to promote social connection in older caregivers for family members with ADRD – an understudied and vulnerable population. The objective is to examine acceptability and efficacy of mindfulness training for social isolation and loneliness in older caregivers for family members with ADRD. The intervention is a smartphone-based MBSR app (Headspace) or active control (breathing app) completed for 14 days. Digital health holds promise as a way to delivery brief interventions in a manner that fits with the busy schedules of caregivers and that be accessed anytime and from home.

Year 3

Dyadic Life Review for Caregivers, Lee Kehoe, PhD

The objective of the project is to examine the role of an adapted behavioral intervention, Life Review Therapy, in improving social connection in caregivers. Participants are caregivers for family members with Mild Cognitive Impairment and advanced cancer who themselves are at least 50 years old and report loneliness, and their care receivers. The adapted intervention -- Relationship-Focused Life Review (RF-LR) – uses the evidence-based components of Life Review Therapy but with a focus on engaging the dyad in shared reminiscence. The counseling program is delivered together with the caregiver and care receiver via videoconferencing over eight weekly sessions. Questions follow the structure of an evidence-based Life Review Handbook, with questions selected and adapted to prompt shared reminiscence among the dyad. The goal of RF-LR is to enhance social connectedness (marked by relationship satisfaction) between dyad members, thereby ultimately reducing loneliness in lonely dyad members. This is a single-arm clinical trial with N=20 dyads (n=20 caregivers and n=20 care receivers) to examine changes in loneliness and relationship satisfaction. Data will also be collected on usability via mixed methods. 

Improving Care Partner Outcomes Through Positive Connections, Benzi Kluger, MD, PhD

This study examines a behavioral intervention to improve social connection and reduce loneliness. The objective is to examine psychological mechanisms whereby a videoconference-delivered, group-format, strengths-based behavioral intervention focused on social connection—'Social LEAF’—reduces loneliness and isolation and improves quality of life for older caregivers of people living with DLB. This is an 18-month Stage I study examining Social LEAF, which teaches positive coping skills focused on improving social relationships and is delivered remotely in a group format—two minor adaptations to the original LEAF intervention in order to provide a more potent means of improving social connection.  A pilot phase with n=20 caregivers (Aim 1) will address these minor adaptations regarding feasibility, acceptability, and signal for engaging the target mechanism (loneliness), with refinements as needed. A second phase (Aims 2-3) will involve a pilot randomized controlled trial comparing Social-LEAF (n=30) to waitlist control (n=30) on loneliness (primary outcome), positive affect (mechanism), and social engagement (mechanism). Data will also be collected on acceptability and perceived benefits using mixed methods.