Family and Friend Caregiver Assessment

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Policy Briefs

Mount Saint Vincent University Media Release:

Family and Friend Caregiver Assessment: An Essential Component of Continuing Care Policy

Caregivers, health care practitioners, and health and social care systems benefit from the integration of caregiver assessment in the provision of home care. This is the main finding of a recent review of studies on caregiver assessment done by Dr. Janice Keefe, Director, Nova Scotia Centre on Aging and Professor, Mount Saint Vincent University, in collaboration with colleagues.

Family and friend caregivers are the backbone of Canada’s health and social care systems. The support they provide is indispensable in enabling individuals with long-term health issues to remain in their communities. In this context, and as demonstrated by the work of Dr. Keefe and her colleagues, continuing care policy can no longer afford to remain solely focused on persons needing care. Recognizing caregivers as partners and clients is crucial to supporting the care situation. In this, assessment tools have a critical role to play. 

Studies show that caregiver assessment provides positive benefits to family and friend caregivers such as knowledge about services; increased confidence to take up services; validation and recognition of their role; and opportunity to talk and permission to express feelings.

In addition, caregiver assessment increases practitioner awareness of caregiver contexts and needs and, in doing so, can help better direct timely supports, leading to improved service accessibility and appropriateness.    

“Taking the time to talk to a family member or friend providing care and discuss her experience, apart from the care recipient, through a caregiver assessment, can help to evaluate the degree and urgency of risk to the health and wellbeing of the caregiver,” said Dr. Janice Keefe, Professor of Family Studies & Gerontology and co-author of the review.       

An effective tool for caregiver assessment is the Caregivers’ Aspiration, Realities & Expectations Tool (C.A.R.E. Tool) developed by Dr. Keefe and colleagues. The tool is a validated instrument designed for use by a health care practitioner to obtain a comprehensive psycho-social assessment that identifies caregiver needs and key areas of concern.   

A caregiver assessment, using the C.A.R.E. Tool, identifies key areas of difficulty such as physical health, emotional health, future planning, crisis preparation and providing supervision/emotional support. With this information, care plans can be developed which help prevent the deterioration of a caregiver’s situation before issues arise. This reduces the likelihood of costly interventions such as hospital admissions or emergency placement and improves the efficiency of the health care system.   

The C.A.R.E. Tool has been used by practitioners across Canada and in Québec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta. It has also been culturally adapted for use in France, Israel, Bermuda and the United States (New Jersey) and translated into French, Portuguese, Italian and Hebrew.

Caregiver assessments are catalysts in identifying the needs of caregivers and can more appropriately allocate resources for respite, psycho-social counselling or information referral. "The results of our pilot study in the Edmonton area demonstrated that using the C.A.R.E. Tool was extremely helpful in assisting the case manager identify the needs of caregivers, especially in situations in need of additional supports. This identification enabled services to be quickly put in place, thereby avoiding a crisis situation which can result in inefficiencies for the health care system," said Denise Holman, Director Home Care Development, Alberta Health Services.

A new policy brief that examines the benefits of caregiver assessment can be found at: Population Change and Lifecourse Strategic Knowledge Policy Brief,  Caregiver Assessment: An Essential Component of Continuing Care Policy. Background documents related to caregiver assessment can be found at:

Read also: Work of Mount researcher highlights important role of caregiver policy in continuing care

For more information:   Dr. Janice Keefe, Professor of Family Studies and Gerontology Director, Nova Scotia Centre on Aging and Lena Isabel Jodrey Chair in Gerontology,  Mount Saint Vincent University, Tel. 902-457-6466

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