Perceived support from a caregiver's social ties predicts subsequent care-recipient health.
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Most social support research has examined support from an individual patient perspective and does not model the broader social context of support felt by caregivers. Understanding how social support networks may complement healthcare services is critical, considering the aging population, as social support networks may be a valuable resource to offset some of the demands placed on the healthcare system. We sought to identify how caregivers' perceived organizational and interpersonal support from their social support network influences care-recipient health. We created a dyadic dataset of care-recipient and caregivers from the first two rounds of the National Health and Aging Trends survey (2011, 2012) and the first round of the associated National Study of Caregivers survey (2011). Using structural equation modeling, we explored how caregivers' perceived social support is associated with caregiver confidence to provide care, and is associated with care-recipient health outcomes at two time points. All data were analyzed in 2016. Social engagement with members from caregivers' social support networks was positively associated with caregiver confidence, and social engagement and confidence were positively associated with care-recipient health at time 1. Social engagement positively predicted patient health at time 2 controlling for time 1. Conversely, use of organizational support negatively predicted care-recipient health at time 2. Care-recipients experience better health outcomes when caregivers are able to be more engaged with members of their social support network.