Research

The Center for caregiving conducts and supports caregiving research across the lifespan to accomplish the following goals:

  • Prioritize caregiving research on emerging issues affecting family members providing and receiving care, health care professionals, and payers;
  • Interrogate the existing caregiving research evidence through policy scans, regulatory analysis, systematic reviews and meta-analysis;
  • Innovate to advance the science and practice of caregiving across the lifespan; 
  • Pilot cutting-edge interventions that are likely to improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs;
  • Implement evidence-based programs to educate family caregivers and connect them to existing health care and support services;
  • Train health care professionals to fully integrate and support caregivers within the health care system;
  • Inform public policy on the role of caregivers in state and national health care regulations;
  • Model the economic and health effects of evidence-based caregiving policy proposals; and
  • Disseminate caregiving research, evidence-based analyses and policy recommendations to a broad range of stakeholders.
The Caregiver Project

PIs: Rich Schulz, PhD and Everette James, JD, MBA
The Caregiver Project, funded by the Stern Family Foundation and the Emily Roseburgh Memorial Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation, was a two year study that aimed to make Western Pennsylvania into a model for nationwide “culture of caregiving” by partnering with caregivers, patients, providers, and community stakeholders to conduct applied research that informed both policy and practice in our region.    Read more

WRITE Symptoms Study

PI: Heidi Donovan, PhD, RN
The WRITE Symptoms Study (Written Representational Intervention to Ease Symptoms) was a web-based symptom management intervention conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing and the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG). Read more

Understanding Factors Influencing Financial Exploitation among Diverse Samples of Older Adults

PI: Scott Beach, PhD
  The financial exploitation (FE) of older adults is a significant social problem. With an increasing number of older adults using social media and the internet, scams and frauds are viewed as a rising threat to economic security of older adults.   Read more

Unmet Needs of Families Facing Gynecologic Cancer

PI: Heidi Donovan, PhD
The American Cancer Society estimates over 100,000 newly diagnosed cases of gynecologic cancer in the US during 2018. Researchers at the Women’s Cancer Research Center at Magee-Womens Research Institute not only specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of gynecologic cancer, but also on its impact to the patient and her family. Read more

Improving Decision Making for Patients with Prolonged Mechanical Ventilation

PI: Douglas White, MD, MAS 
This randomized trial out of Duke University, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, University of Washington, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), investigated the use of an internet-based decision aid to improve the quality of decision making for surrogate decision makers of patients in intensive care.  Read more

Essential Elements of Caregiver Support in Gynecologic Oncology

PI: Heidi Donovan, PhD, RN
In this study, we implemented a four-phase modified Delphi, consensus-building approach to establish the essential elements of caregiver support to be provided in gynecologic cancer programs.  Read more

Improving Psychological Distress Among Critical Illness Survivors and Their Informal Caregivers

PI: Douglas White, MD, MAS
This randomized trial out of Duke University, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, University of Washington, and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), studied post-ICU-discharge issues of depression, anxiety, and PTSD among patients and their caregivers.  Read more

Depression in Dementia Caregivers

PI: Steven Smagula, PhD
Supported by an NIMH-K01, this study is designed to further our understanding of: the neurobiology of stress and depression risk in caregivers; and how 24-hour sleep-wake rhythm disruption predicts depression risk and declines in brain health. Read more

PACE Project

PI: Ann-Marie Rosland, MD, MS
The PACE Study was an observational study which collected extensive survey and qualitative interview data from adults with complex diabetes who had significant involvement in their healthcare from a supportive family member or friend. Read more

Family Action for Health Program

PI: Ann-Marie Rosland, MD, MS
The study, Comparative Effectiveness of Adding Family Supporter Training and Engagement to a CHW-Led Intervention to Improve Behavioral Management of Multiple Risk Factors for Diabetes Complications, compares the use of the Family Partners for Health Action (FAM-ACT) program to individual patient-focused diabetes self-management education and care management. Read more

Caring Others Increasing Engagement in PACT

PI: Ann Marie Rosland, MD, MS
The CO-IMPACT study, funded by Veterans Affairs Office of Research and Development, is a randomized clinical trial testing a method to increase patient engagement in care and success in diabetes management for patients with diabetes with high-risk features who also have family members involved in their care.      Read more

Differences in Reporting Child’s Health and Developmental Concerns Between Mothers and Fathers

PI: Amy Houtrow, MD, PhD, MPH
In two parent households, often much of the child rearing responsibilities fall to mothers. When fathers attend clinic appointments, anecdotal observations indicate that fathers are less informed about their children’s health than mothers. This raises an important question, do fathers report the same health and health care needs differently than mothers?  Read more

Characterization of the Emotional and Physical Health of Mothers of Children with Special Health Care Needs in the United States

PIs: Amy Houtrow, MD, PhD, MPH
Families of children with a special health care need face significant challenges in many aspects of their lives including increased work loss and difficulty accessing nonmedical services. This research project aimed to characterize associations between child, family, community, and health care-level factors with the emotional and physical health of mothers of children with special health care needs (CSHCN).    Read more

Bright (optimism) IDEAS

PI: Robert Noll, PhD 
Bright (optimism) IDEAS (Identify, Define, Evaluate, Act, See if it worked) is a problem solving skills training targeting professionals currently providing psychosocial care to children with cancer and their families.         Read more

Circadian Activity Profiling System

PI: Stephen Smagula, PhD
Supported by the Philips Grand Challenge and University of Pittsburgh Early Stage Commercialization Fund, Dr. Smagula is developing the first wearable system for tracking and identifying toxic circadian rest-activity patterns in real time. Read more

Widowed Elders' Lifestyle after Loss (WELL)

PI: Sarah Stahl, PhD
Apart from the emotional strain of losing a spouse, there are profound changes to bereaved survivors' lifestyle and daily routine. Losing a spouse leads to the absence of social cues that once kept daily routines properly entrained; bereaved elders suddenly feel no reason to wake up, eat meals, or go to bed at a particular time. These changes disrupt the stability of individuals' internal chronobiological rhythms, placing them at high risk for mood disorders like depression.      Read more

Communicating with Surrogate Decision Makers About Incapacitated ICU Patients’ Values

PIs: Leslie Scheunemann, MD, MPH and Douglas White, MD, MAS
One barrier to patient-centered decision-making for incapacitated patients, such as those with acute respiratory failure, is that clinicians do not consistently elicit and incorporate patients' values when communicating with the patients' surrogate decision makers. This research project looks to develop three research tools to better facilitate future interventions and improve this problem.  Read more

Developing a Communication and Shared Decision Making Tool to Prepare Family Members in ICUs for the Role of Surrogate Decision Maker

PI: Douglas White, MD, MAS
This study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, investigates ways to improve the quality of surrogate decision makers in the ICU through the development and deployment of a web-based communication and decision support tool and a reliable care process to integrate the tool into routine practice. Read more

PARTNER Program - Improving Patient and Family Centered Care

PI: Douglas White, MD, MAS
Researchers developed the PARTNER (PAiring Re-engineered ICU Teams with Nurse-driven Education and OutReach) program, which is a 4-facet, team-based intervention that reengineers how surrogates are supported in the ICU.  Read more

PARTNER II: Improving Patient and Family Centered Care in Advanced Critical Illness

PI: Douglas White, MD, MAS
PARTNER II is a comparative effectiveness trial with the overarching goal to ensure patient-centered decisions about the use of intensive treatments for patients with advanced critical illness as well as support for their family members and friends.  Read more

Family Support Intervention in Intensive Care Units: A randomized trial to improve surrogate decision-making for critically ill elders

PI: Douglas White, MD, MAS
  Some caregivers may find themselves in the role of surrogate decision maker for their friend or loved one. The goal of this study is to conduct a multicenter efficacy trial of the Four Supports Intervention among 400 critically ill older adults to reduce their long term symptoms of depression and anxiety.   Read more

Self-management via Health Kiosk by community-residing older adults

PI: Judith Matthews, PhD, MPH, RN
This project studies older adults’ views, motivations, and patterns of use of an adaptive, community-based, multi-user health kiosk over 18 months of study participation. The goal is to understand how and why older adults use a health kiosk to live a healthier lifestyle and monitor and manage selected chronic conditions. Read more

Barriers to Initiating and Persisting with Guideline-Adherent Treatment for Ovarian Cancer

PI: Heidi Donovan, PhD, RN
Funded through the National Cancer Institute’s SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) program, this set of studies aims to identify barriers to initiating and persisting with guideline adherent treatment among women with ovarian cancer, their family caregivers, and healthcare providers.  Read more

SmartCare Study

PIs: Heidi Donovan, PhD, RN and Paula Sherwood, PhD, RN, CNRN, FAAN
The goal of the SmartCare Study was to identify the most effective ways to deliver interventions to improve the psychological and physical health of family caregivers of persons with primary malignant brain tumors (PMBT).  Read more

Microsimulation Model to Examine Caregiving

PIs: Julia Driessen, PhD and Hawre Jalal, MD, MSc, PhD
Informal caregiving is a critical component of long-term care in the United States, but is woefully underemphasized in longer-term care research and policy. Through the use of a highly detailed microsimulation model, we aim to provide insight into the health and financial impact of various policy decisions.  Read more

Stroke Caregiver Empowerment (STROKE-CARE)

PI: Juleen Rodakowski, OTD, MS, OTRL
The primary purpose of the Stroke Caregiver Empowerment Study is to refine STROKE-CARE for caregivers and explore changes in caregiver and care-recipient outcomes. The proposed study refines a behavioral intervention that teaches caregivers to facilitate problem solving over the course of daily activities.  Read more

Addressing the Health Needs of an Aging America: New Opportunities for Evidence-Based Policy Solutions

PI: Everette James, JD, MBA , Sally Morton, PhD, and William Dunn, PhD
Researchers at the Stern Center for Evidence-Based Policy Research (formerly part of the Health Policy Institute) systematically mapped the landscape of research evidence and policy recommendations to locate immediate opportunities for evidence-based policy to address the changing health needs of the aging U.S. population. Read more

Addressing the Needs of Caregivers at Risk: A New Policy Strategy

PIs: Everette James, JD, MBA, Meredith Hughes, JD, MPH, and Philip Rocco    Researchers at the Stern Center, formerly part of the Health Policy Institute, surveyed the current landscape of federal and state policies to address economic and health risks faced by lay caregivers who play an increasingly critical role in sustaining the health of millions of aging Americans.   Read more

Leadership in Public Health Social Work Education

PI: Steven Albert, PhD, MS
Pitt's School of Social Work was one of only three receipients of a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funded Leadership in Public Health Social Work Education Program (LPHSWE). The program prepares students for leadership positions in public health social work to meet the needs of vulnerable populations.  Read more

Pittsburgh Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center

PI: Steven Albert, PhD, MS
The Pittsburgh Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center is one of twelve National Institute on Aging-funded Centers of Excellence in Geriatric Research. The Center is dedicated to promoting functional independence among older Americans. Read more

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research Center

PIs: Steven Albert, PhD, MS and Anne Newman, MD, MPH
Within the Center for Aging and Population Health, the Prevention Research Center (CAPH-PRC) promotes active life expectancy in older adults by conducting and translating research on the prevention of late life disability. Read more

Alzheimer Disease Research Center Outreach, Recruitment and Education Core

PI: Jennifer Lingler, PhD, MA, CRNP
The University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer Disease Research Center (ADRC) is one of the nation's leading research centers specializing in the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. As part of the grant award from the National Institute on Aging, the ADRC is composed of several cores, one of which is the Outreach, Recruitment and Education (ORE) Core.  Read more

Return of Amyloid Imaging Research Results in Mild Cognitive Impairment

PI: Jennifer Lingler, PhD, MA, CRNP
Brain amyloid imaging is a premortem test for Alzheimers Disease pathology which has been previously witheld from research participants and their families. As texts, amyloid imaging in particular, become more reliable and potentially clinically significant, it seems necessary to revist this practice to allow for valuable prognostic and planning information.   Read more

Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program

PI: Richard Schulz, PhD
The Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) is a consortium of the University of Pittsburgh, the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Penn State University, and UPMC, with Pitt as the lead institution. Through this collaboration we are able to provide interprofessional training and access to resources for older adults and their families throughout HHS Region III. Read more

Recruitment Innovations to Enhance Diversity in Alzheimer's Disease Research

PI: Jennifer Lingler, PhD, MA, CRNP
African Americans are consistently underrepresented in Alzheimer's disease and related disorders rearch projects, despite experiencing Alzheimer's-related health problems at a disproportionate rate. This is a nationally recognized problem. Researchers proprosed to develop and evaluate a novel storytelling strategy to enhance recruitment of African American adults.  Read more

Retaining Participants in Longitudinal Studies of Alzheimer’s Disease

PI: Jennifer Lingler, PhD, MA, CRNP   Longitudinal studies of younger, symptom-free adults may be a critical to studying Alzheimer's Disease, however, such studies have a perceived research burden associated with biomarker collection procedures and annual assessments of clinical and neuropsychological functions. In addition, there is difficulty in both recruiting and retaining research participants.    Read more