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What Challenges Do Family Caregivers of Adult Children With Autism Face?

Christina Marsack-Topolewski, PhD, MSW, LMSW

March 1, 2024



What challenges do family caregivers of adult children with autism face?



Family caregivers, as noted by Marsack & Perry (2018), Marsack-Topolewski (2020), and Marsack-Topolewski & Wilson (2021), encounter multifaceted day-to-day challenges. These challenges, which include physical and emotional aspects, contribute to the complex caregiving landscape. The physical strain experienced by family caregivers, particularly those in their seventies engaged in demanding tasks like lifting, is a critical concern. Occupational therapy practitioners play a vital role in addressing these challenges by providing practical solutions and recommendations, emphasizing the significance of collaboration between social workers and OTPs. This collaboration ensures a holistic approach to caregiving support, addressing the immediate physical challenges and the emotional well-being of family caregivers.


This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course Aging Caregivers: What To Know And How To Best Provide Support by Christina Marsack-Topolewski, PhD, MSW, LMSW.

christina marsack topolewski

Christina Marsack-Topolewski, PhD, MSW, LMSW

Dr. Christina Marsack-Topolewski is an associate professor of Social Work in the College of Health and Human Services at Eastern Michigan University. She received a bachelor of science in Special Education from Wayne State University, specializing in Cognitive Impairments. She trained under a specialized fellowship at the University of Michigan, receiving her master’s in Social Work and specializing in aging from the University of Michigan. Dr. Marsack-Topolewski received her PhD in Social Work with a dual title in Gerontology from Wayne State University. She has worked with individuals with various intellectual and developmental disabilities for over 20 years. Her research focuses on individuals with IDDs, their caregivers, advance care planning, service delivery, and service utilization. She has over 50 publications in national and international journals, mainly focusing on individuals with IDDs, advance care planning, caregiving, and aging. In addition, she has presented her work locally, nationally, and internationally. Dr. Marsack-Topolewski has led multiple grant-funded programs tailoring services to individuals with IDDs, older adults, and chronic illnesses. In 2019, she was appointed to the National Task Group on Intellectual Disability and Dementia Practices. She serves as both a board member and co-chair of Membership Affairs. Over the past three years, she has provided testimony at the state level (Michigan) to advocate for two house bills that would provide protections against exploitation for vulnerable adults, such as individuals with IDDs.

Related Courses

Aging Caregivers: What To Know And How To Best Provide Support
Presented by Christina Marsack-Topolewski, PhD, MSW, LMSW


Christina Marsack-Topolewski, PhD, MSW, LMSW
Course: #6209Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'I enjoyed the course, very good instructor'   Read Reviews
Occupational therapy practitioners provide a tremendous amount of support to patients who receive support from an aging family caregiver. Aging family caregivers often face unique circumstances and are at risk for burnout and exhaustion. This one-hour webinar will provide an overview of the state of caregiving for aging family caregivers and provide implications for occupational therapists who may intersect with this population of caregivers in their own work.

Understanding Girls and Women with Autism In A World Where They Are Often Overlooked And Misdiagnosed
Presented by Christina Marsack-Topolewski, PhD, MSW, LMSW
Live WebinarTue, Aug 6, 2024 at 8:00 pm EDT
Tue, Aug 6, 2024 at 8:00 pm EDT


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While the manifestation and exhibited characteristics associated with autism spectrum disorder in females often appear different than for males, females with autism are often misdiagnosed and overlooked altogether-- requiring them to navigate a world predicated on social interaction without a proper diagnosis and relevant services. This training will discuss how autism manifests for females and clinical considerations for practitioners.

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