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Research Question

  1. What are the gaps in current research on informal caregivers (especially military and veteran caregivers), and how can the research community begin to fill those gaps? That is, what is the research blueprint?

The United States is home to more than 21 million veterans, many of whom deployed to support combat operations around the globe during their military service and sustained service-related conditions or disabilities. Supporting these wounded, ill, and injured warriors once home are millions of informal caregivers — individuals who provide unpaid support with activities that enable the service member or veteran to live in a noninstitutionalized setting. In this report, researchers describe elements of a research blueprint to inform future efforts to improve support for military and veteran caregivers. To construct this blueprint, researchers inventoried currently available research on caregiving for disabled adults and children and gathered stakeholder input by conducting a survey and facilitating an online panel. The report highlights the need for more studies that examine how military and veteran caregiver needs evolve over time, how programs are working, and how caregiving affects specific subgroups. The resulting blueprint should serve as a guide for the caregiver support community to use in prioritizing and facilitating future research.

Key Findings

Blueprint Site Plan — Examine Caregiving and Caregivers in the Context of Society at Large

  • Describe caregivers.
  • Quantify the societal cost savings attributed to caregiving.

Blueprint Floor Plan — Examine How Caregiving Affects Caregivers

  • Document the effects of caregiving on caregiver outcomes.
  • Assess the consequences of caregiving on the children of caregivers.
  • Document the effects of caregiving on care recipient outcomes.
  • Assess how the needs of care recipients change over time.
  • Examine factors associated with caregiver and care recipient harm.

Blueprint Elevation — Examine How External Factors May Influence the Caregiving Experience

  • Identify strategies for making effective programs available to more caregivers.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of programs and policies for ensuring caregiver well-being.
  • Identify effective programs and policies to support caregivers' ability to provide care.


  • Establish partnerships. The military and veteran caregiver stakeholder community can partner with some of the many organizations that are interested in research on various aspects of caregiving. Partnerships and consortia could call for increased research investment, encourage the research community to focus on caregiving, and demand more evidence-based decisionmaking for future caregiver support programs and policies.
  • Convene a military and veteran caregiver research summit. A research summit could be convened to focus on cultivating new research studies designed around elements identified in this research blueprint. Participants could include researchers from multiple disciplines, as well as caregiver representatives.
  • Create a research center of excellence. A research center of excellence within the military and veteran caregiving community could foster the strategic pursuit of the research blueprint and begin to address the knowledge gaps outlined in this report, thus promoting better support for military and veteran caregivers in the future.

This report was sponsored by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, and the research was conducted by RAND Health.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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