The Center for the Study of Aging, a center within the College of Health Sciences, engages with Boise State students from across disciplines in research, interventions and programs related to caregiving and caregiver support. Approximately five million adults are attending school while acting as a caregiver. Seven in 10 of these students report that caregiving has impacted their academic ability, while 86% of them work at least part-time. This issue is appearing on campuses across the country, including Boise State. Reports of staff seeking caregiver support, students leaving programs due to caregiving duties and others struggling to meet class expectations have been brought to the center’s attention. In celebration of November as Family Caregiver Month, the center is teaming up with local organizations to provide outreach and education on campus and to incorporate caregiver support into existing programs for Boise State faculty, staff and students.
Undergraduate and graduate students from the Schools of Public and Population Health and Social Work have recently worked on the following projects:
- Recognizing the diverse needs of Idaho caregivers across a lifespan, Adrian Rodriguez, student in the Master of Public Health Program, conducted interviews with public health professionals from across the country to better understand the successes and barriers experienced when engaging members of the Hispanic community in services and programs. Results from this work, coauthored by Taylor Neher and Sarah Toevs, are under review for publication in a peer-reviewed journal and have been presented at the 2023 Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs Conference. The insights gleaned from this study have also been shared with partners of the Idaho Caregiver Alliance and used by the Family Caregiver Navigator program. Furthermore, Rodriguez helped organize and presented at the 12th Annual Idaho Family Caregiver Conference’s Spanish language track. He will be an essential part of the planning committee, especially in regard to the in-person Spanish language track, for the 13th Annual Idaho Family Caregiver Conference on Saturday, March 9, 2024. Students can register for free and are encouraged to attend this virtual celebration of caregivers.
- Domini Baker-Strayer, a student in the Online Master of Social Work program, joined the Center for the Study of Aging as an intern in the Spring and Summer Semesters of 2023. Her efforts produced the 2022-2023 Statewide Assessment of Need for Idahoans with Disabilities developed in partnership with leadership from the Idaho State Independent Living Council and Chareen Snelson with the College of Education. The qualitative analysis conducted by Baker-Strayer revealed the importance of dignity and recognition for people with disabilities. Results will be used to inform the strategic plan for the Idaho State Independent Living Council.
- Taylor Neher along with graduate student Ashlyn Mills are working to assess the current stress levels of Boise State University students. Using a standardized survey, they will explore the perceived overall stress of students, common stressors, and knowledge of available campus resources. The survey will also assess the prevalence of students who provide care for a family member (child, spouse, parents) with a chronic illness or disability. Results of this study will be used to enhance resources available to students as they pursue academic endeavors.
- Hailey Merrick, a student in the Master of Public Health Program, and researchers from the Center for the Study of Aging conducted a statewide study of the impact of the Idaho Fit and Fall Proof Program ™(FFP) on feelings of isolation using the COVID 19 pandemic as a natural experiment. Results of this work document the impact of FFP on feelings of community and connectedness in addition to the benefits of the volunteer-led physical activity program. The FFP program is delivered in 32 of Idaho’s 44 counties logging over 7,000 class visits per year. Researchers with the center have served as evaluators of the program for over 10 years enlisting the support of undergraduate and graduate students in this work.
- Heather Ophir from the Master of Social Work program honed her policy analysis and writing skills during her internship with the Center for the Study of Aging in the Spring Semester of 2023. Heather served as the Policy Intern for the Idaho Caregiver Alliance, producing 13 policy update newsletters during the 2023 Idaho Legislative Session. These updates were distributed to over 1,200 individuals and had an average “open rate” of 39% (typical open rate for newsletters distributed by nonprofit organizations is 25%).
- Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health students have provided ongoing support for Family Caregiver Navigator, a project of the Idaho Caregiver Alliance and the Center for the Study of Aging. Family Caregiver Navigator is a free, remote and low-barrier resource referral and care planning resource for caregivers across the lifespan (including university students and staff). Caregivers are invited to contact Family Caregiver Navigator at (208) 426-5899 or complete a screener at caregivernavigator.org.
How to get involved
This month, The Center for the Study of Aging celebrates #CaregiversAsCareChampions. Identify those who might be caring for others and offer assistance or join the Center for the Study of Aging and its community partners on social media to spread the word this November during Family Caregiver Month (@FamilyCaregiverNavigator and @IdahoCaregiverAlliance on Instagram; Idaho Caregiver Alliance on Facebook).
For questions or other ways to get involved, contact Sheila Weaver, program manager at the Center for the Study of Aging, at firstname.lastname@example.org.