This Program Project aims to promote health and reduce cardiovascular risk in family caregivers of persons with chronic illness. As family caregivers provide physical, psychosocial, and instrumental care to their loved ones with prolonged and progressive health conditions, they often experience tremendous burden while balancing other life demands. Chronic intense caregiving represents a situation of chronic stress, which takes a toll on health through a cascade of deleterious physiological stress processes. Along with caregivers'lack of attention to their own health promotion, risk of cardiovascular disease, in particular, is a major concern. Few studies have explored self-care interventions for family caregivers especially targeted to improve coping with the stressful circumstances and also to ameliorate the harmful effects of chronic stress ultimately associated with cardiovascular risk. In two studies, using a psychoneuroimmunological approach, we will test two interventions, psycho-education and physical exercise, individually and in combination. The first study will target family caregivers of African American dementia patients;the second will focus on family caregivers of heart failure patients. Parallel designs, interventions and measures will create synergy as will integration of all data management and analyses within a Biobehavioral Science and Measures Core. This Core will also provide high level guidance and interpretation of model testing resulting from analysis of the common data set. The combined data set will allow for elucidating the neuroendocrine mechanisms of stress-induced cardiovascular risk, further developing the model, and stimulating future research, while the shared core support will provide substantial efficiency;neither could be achieved outside of a Program Project approach. These collective efforts will generate important data whereby future care can significantly enhance the lives of family caregivers and minimize their risk of cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of disability and death in the United States.

Public Health Relevance

More and more family members are providing care to their loved ones with prolonged and progressive illnesses. Chronic intense caregiving represents a situation of chronic stress, which takes a toll on one's mental and physical health including an increased risk for the development or worsening of heart disease. Identification of effective self-care interventions for family caregivers is warranted to improve their emotional wellbeing and minimize the harmful effects of chronic stress on the heart.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
Research Program Projects (P01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZNR1-REV-M (02))
Program Officer
Huss, Karen
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Emory University
Other Health Professions
Schools of Nursing
United States
Zip Code
Gary, Rebecca; Dunbar, Sandra B; Higgins, Melinda et al. (2018) An Intervention to Improve Physical Function and Caregiver Perceptions in Family Caregivers of Persons With Heart Failure. J Appl Gerontol :733464817746757
Samson, Zoe Blake; Parker, Monica; Dye, Clinton et al. (2016) Experiences and Learning Needs of African American Family Dementia Caregivers. Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen 31:492-501
Morris, Alanna A; Kalogeropoulos, Andreas P; Zhao, Liping et al. (2015) Race and ethnic differences in the epidemiology and risk factors for graft failure after heart transplantation. J Heart Lung Transplant 34:825-31