Meals on Wheels Central Texas Completes Study  to Support Family Caregivers of Older Adults in innovative CAPABLE Program

June 21, 2024

 With an estimated 38 million Americans providing $600 billion in unpaid care, recognizing and supporting these care partners is crucial. Meals on Wheels Central Texas, in partnership with the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (JHSON), is addressing this critical need through a recently completed pilot study of an enhancement for care partners of JHSON’s innovative CAPABLE (Community Aging in Place-Advancing Better Living for Elders) program. 
The study, known as CAPABLE Care Partner, aims to enhance the nationally-recognized CAPABLE program to include specific support for care partners. Meals on Wheels Central Texas was chosen as a pilot site for the multi-year study based on specific criteria, such as a current CAPABLE service site with demonstrated leadership. The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) provided research funding. 

“Care partners perform essential tasks that enable older adults to remain in their homes,” explains CAPABLE co-developer Dr. Sarah Szanton. “Yet they often feel overwhelmed and lack sufficient support.” Research indicates that care partners who feel supported and connected to resources can provide care more effectively and for longer periods.
“By recognizing and supporting the crucial role of care partners,” says Dr. Deborah Paone (Director of Implementation & Evaluation -CAPABLE and study co-lead), “this study seeks to improve the well-being and effectiveness of both caregivers and older adults they assist.” The results of the study are informing revisions and creation of new training, tools, and resources to support these family caregivers.

The need for caregivers is expected to continue to grow. The health care system increasingly relies on family and friend caregivers to perform many medically-related and supportive tasks, such as post-surgical recovery at home, medication management, and activities of daily living. Jeanne Schuller, Senior Research Associate, says that supporting these caregivers is crucial to supporting our aging nation. “We must proactively reach caregivers, provide resources, and alleviate some of their burden, if we expect them to extend themselves in this way.”

About CAPABLE: Developed in 2009, the CAPABLE program is a person-directed, home-based initiative designed to improve the function and home environment of older adults. The program employs an interprofessional team including an occupational therapist (OT), a registered nurse (RN), and a handy worker. This team conducts home visits to help older adults develop action plans that enhance their health and function. Participants learn new skills, exercises, and how to utilize new equipment and home modifications.

About Johns Hopkins School of Nursing: Johns Hopkins School of Nursing is a globally recognized institution dedicated to improving health outcomes through innovative research, education, and practice. For over 140 years, it has been at the forefront of nursing education and research, preparing nursing leaders to address the world's most pressing health challenges.
About Meals on Wheels Central Texas: Meals on Wheels Central Texas (MOWCTX) Greater Austin Senior Assistance and Prepared Meal Delivery Services | Meals on Wheels Central Texas is one of the nation’s largest meal delivery organizations providing service to almost 4,500 people with assistance of more than 3,600 volunteers. The organization services homebound older adults and people with disabilities beyond their medically tailored meal delivery program by offering the following programs that support aging in place: In home care, pet care, home repair, and grocery shopping assistance. MOWCTX was selected to participate in the pilot program because they were a current CAPABLE service site with shown leadership and success offering CAPABLE. They have been providing the CAPABLE program in the community since 2021.