Psychologists have played a leading role in the development of the burgeoning field of family caregiver research since the 1970s. That research has focused on two prime areas:
- Assessing the psychological and physical health consequences to family members of short- and long-term caregiving with loved ones with different illnesses and disabilities (e.g., Alzheimer’s dementia, breast cancer, developmental disabilities). Such research also often pays attention to the roles caregivers play in families of different configurations (e.g., spousal caregiving, caregiving in grandparent-run households ) within myriad cultural and community contexts (e.g., Latino caregiving, rural caregiving).
- Devising relevant, accessible, cost-efficient interventions to help family members better cope with the rigors of caregiving under a wide range of circumstances (e.g., aging parents with early-stage dementia, adolescents with autism spectrum disorders, end-of-life care)
This psychological research occurs under many different auspices. Many researchers in this field receive grants from governmental agencies to assess the efficacy of specific caregiver interventions with particular sub-populations. Others depend on monies from disease-specific organizations and advocacy groups interested in improving clinical outcomes for specific patient groups through enhanced family support. Yet others have received grants from family caregiver support organizations and private foundations (e.g., Langeloth Foundation) for which improving family caregiver wellness more generally is a key objective of their missions.
Psychologists publish the results of their studies in peer-reviewed journals intended for psychologists, other healthcare professionals, administrators and policy-makers. They also make their results available in comprehensible language directly to family caregivers themselves through articles in such media outlets as caregiver websites, caregiver magazines, and the general press.