Primary Investigator: Dr. Skye Leedahl, Associate Professor of Human Development & Family Studies and Political Science
In brief: Dr. Leedahl’s Public Policy Lab team researched and designed a caregiver survey for the PACE Organization of Rhode Island (PACE RI), a non-profit community-based healthcare and insurance provider for adults 55 or older with complex medical conditions who prefer to live at home. The survey will allow PACE RI to assess and improve the support it provides to its clients’ caregivers. Led by Dr. Leedahl, students Madeline Green, Isabella Olczak, Sarah Robitaille, and Elizabeth Lubera conducted research and incorporated input from meetings with PACE RI administrators and social workers in order to design the survey. The team’s work will also inform survey redevelopment for the URI Cyber-Seniors program.
SSIREP Researchers Design Survey to Improve Healthcare Non-Profit’s Support for the Caregivers of Older Adults
Thanks to a gift from a donor, URI’s Social Science Institute for Research, Education, and Policy (SSIREP) created the Public Policy Lab, where faculty and students partner with local governments and nonprofit organizations to improve community services and better the lives of Rhode Islanders through applied policy projects. Whereas students must often work low wage jobs to complete their education, this fund creates opportunities for them to conduct paid research fellowships under the mentorship of a faculty supervisor. At the Public Policy Lab, students apply their studies toward the development of graduate-level professional skills while working as part of a team to contribute meaningfully to their community.
At SSIREP’s Public Policy Lab, a project team–led by Dr. Skye Leedahl (Department of Human Development and Family Science), with students Madeline Green, Isabella Olczak, Sarah Robitaille, and Elizabeth Lubera–researched and designed a caregiver survey for the PACE Organization of Rhode Island (PACE RI). The survey will allow PACE to assess and improve the support it provides to its clients’ caregivers. PACE RI is a non-profit community-based healthcare and insurance provider for adults 55 or older with complex medical conditions who prefer to live at home.
“We had done some work with a couple of my classes where we helped to analyze PACE RI’s client satisfaction data,” said Dr. Leedahl. “One of the gaps they identified was that the caregivers don’t have a mechanism to weigh in on satisfaction or provide ideas for how to improve their services…And we couldn’t find a lot of caregiver satisfaction surveys in the literature.”
“We went from literally nothing,” Madeline Green, a URI senior majoring in Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies, said. “It was pretty cool starting something from scratch. It gave me a challenge to push myself more. But I was really intimidated at first. I went from zero research experience to hours on Google Scholar, researching different scales, figuring out how to even begin to measure [caregiver] satisfaction. I remember a day we found one paper that was perfect, and that was like this huge celebration.” Green said.
Leedahl’s survey design team drew upon input from meetings with administrators and social workers at PACE RI.
“Fieldwork is the best way to learn and grow and understand how things actually function,” said Isabella Olczak, who graduated last spring. “There’s so much uncertainty around the inner workings of healthcare, and this experience helped me to learn about what it really looks like in action.”
Though the survey awaits finalization, among the students the project has already borne fruit.
“People making policy don’t always seem to know how it plays out on the ground–what works, who gets covered, who doesn’t,” Olczak said. “I’m in law school now. If I decide to do public policy, I’ve had that experience, and I know.”
Green noted that, “I was at a meeting with the social workers, and the head of the social work department was like, ‘Thank you so much for what you’re doing. We’re swamped as it is, and this is crucial to our program and how we’ll move forward.’ And I remember thinking: all this behind the scenes research and all the stuff that I was doing on my laptop was gonna end up really benefiting them and the people involved in it too. So yeah, that was a little self-esteem boost.”
Although PACE-RI awaits implementation of the survey, the students were able to create a useful tool that was developed using current research and staff input. Future results from the survey will inform PACE-RI’s service offerings and evaluate the organizations ability to meet caregiver’s needs. Allowing caregivers an opportunity to provide feedback will continue to be important as PACE grows and shifts to meet the needs of an aging population.