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Amy R. Darragh, PhD, OTR/L

Award Name CCTS Pilot 2009
Award Date 05/01/2009

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Musculoskeletal Health and Disorders in Caregivers

Amy Darragh, PhD Assistant Professor in the School of Allied Medical Professions, has been awarded a Pilot Grant from The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science. She is studying the physical tasks that informal caregivers perform, and whether these are associated with musculoskeletal disorders.

Darragh has a research background in occupational epidemiology and a clinical background in ergonomics and healthcare, which have prepared her for this study. She is researching the tasks that caregivers identify as physically demanding, awkward or uncomfortable and measuring musculoskeletal pain in informal caregivers who are caring for an adult with a physical disability.

Informal caregivers, such as unpaid friends and relatives, make up 21% of the population, providing 80 hours per week of care involving strenuous tasks such as bathing, dressing, and getting out of bed. Although musculoskeletal risks involved with formal care giving is known, the risks for informal caregivers is not.

“No one had looked at musculoskeletal health in informal caregivers, and yet we know that nurses, home health aides, occupational therapists and physical therapists are at significant and substantial risk of musculoskeletal injury because of their job, moving, transferring, lifting, and repositioning patients,” said Darragh.

The research will be conducted in three phases. The first focuses on individual interviews and focus group discussions with caregivers to identify strenuous tasks they perform. So far 38 participants have been involved, with 40 being the goal.

In the second phase, Darragh will conduct an in-home assessment and observe the tasks which are physically demanding. This has been Darragh’s biggest challenge so far, only about one-third of the participants have agreed to participate in phase two. The research team will look at environmental constraints that caregivers encounter and how the task is performed.

The final phase will be to design a cross-sectional survey that captures larger groups of people to see whether caregivers have a higher prevalence of musculoskeletal pain than those with a similar age and background. The survey will include about 1,500 participants.

One goal of the study is to identify primary issues that caregivers face for a longitudinal study that will evaluate the emergence of musculoskeletal symptoms among new caregivers and observe what happens to them over time.

Darragh would like to apply for NIH funding to continue her work, developing and implementing an ergonomic intervention to reduce musculoskeletal risks.

By Samantha Smith, Monday, November 16, 2009

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