Family Caregivers inclusion into medical teams serving veterans was the focus of a recent collaborative launch event announcing a joint programming endeavor between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation on 31 JAN 2020 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The innovative new program, the Campaign for Inclusive Care Academy, is described as a groundbreaking model intended for implementation in “tip of the spear” health care systems nationwide. The program is in association with Sen. Elizabeth Dole, herself a Caregiver for her husband, combat wounded World War II veteran former Senator (KS) Robert “Bob” Dole.
In comments at the FRI 31 JAN 2020 launch event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Senator Elizabeth Dole stated “We want to equip the doctors, nurses, social workers and frontline medical personnel across the entire VA health system with the latest strategies for integrating Caregivers into their Veterans’ medical teams.”
Care Academy program training will focus on ensuring Caregivers and Veterans receive geriatric, polytrauma as well as traumatic brain injury care. Care Academy programming for Providers will focus on three primary topic areas: 1) the Caregiver’s journey, 2) the value of clear and mutual communication, and 3) Veterans Health Administration privacy policies.
Care Academy training fits into VA’s overall mission to care for those who have served, said Dr. Lynda Davis, VA Chief Veterans Experience Officer. Dr. Davis, who also happens to be a veteran caregiver, further stated that “This commitment to customer service reflects our longstanding held culture referred to in the I CARE values that the VA has.”
The “I CARE” acronym stands for:
I – Integrity,
C – Commitment,
A – Advocacy,
R – Respect, and
E – Excellence.
Caregiver inclusion into Veteran care wasn’t always consistent nor was it always effective. However, under the auspices of the new Campaign for Inclusive Care Academy program, VA medical center personnel will inquire as to whether Veterans desire to have a particular Caregiver included in their veteran medical care plan.
Lisa Pape, deputy chief officer of Patient Care Services at the VA further intoned: “We all know we sit in with our kids and hear what the doctor has to say, but when you’re an adult, nobody says, ‘Do you need your husband or wife to sit in?” Ms. Pape went on to stress that the VA will now ask that question because of the reality Caregivers are with Veterans all the time.
Steven Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation underscored the practicality of the policy by stating “Most of the advocates for this are the Veterans who want that family member engaged,” Mr. Schwab also stressed that the new program should set a new standard for VA and civilian health care, noting that some major health care systems such as the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic and Sanford Health are already following the program.
The program will be initiated within three Veterans Integrated Service Networks, or VISNs. The three are VISN 10, headquartered in Ohio and covering parts of the Midwest; VISN 17, which is headquartered in Texas; and VISN 20 which covers the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and is headquartered in Washington state.
The program is scheduled to achieve full implementation and expansion into all VA Facilities within the next 24 months.
The Campaign for Inclusive Care Academy has four primary goals.
1. Helping VA identify Caregivers and make them part of the team.
2. Equipping Caregivers to promote more positive clinical outcomes.
3. Enhance VA’s Choose Home program and improve care in the home.
4. Ensure that the information VA receives about Caregivers is respected and remains private.
The Campaign for Inclusive Care Academy’s journey to fruition started when the VA initially commenced with conducting meetings with the Veterans’ Family, Caregiver, and Survivor Advisory Committee in October 2017. Around the September 2018 time frame, the Elizabeth Dole Center of Excellence for Veteran and Caregiver Research started. The Joint Campaign for Inclusive Care was later launched in October 2019. A report published in the journal Health Affairs attested to the efficacy of VA and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s notable progress on a Veteran’s health care treatment.
The published report was entitled “Including Family Caregivers in Seriously Ill Veterans’ Care: A Mixed-Methods Study.” Conclusive research efforts were led by a dedicated team of scholars from the acclaimed Duke University, and strongly emphasized the tangible benefits of caregiver inclusion identified in the collaborative Department of Veterans Veterans Affairs / Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Campaign for Inclusive Care. The report stresses in no uncertain terms that caregiver inclusion strengthens health care for patients and is a model for improving care in the private sector. The Campaign for Inclusive Care is one of several initiatives and programs through which the Department of Veterans Affairs passionately supports Veterans’ caregivers.