The Effects of a Special Computer Network on Caregivers of Persons with Alzheimer's Disease

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Caregivers of persons with Alzheimer's disease (AD) are confronted with novel decision-making tasks that leave them at risk for social isolation. Computer Link is a computer network providing information, communication, and decision-support functions for caregivers of persons with AD. One hundred two AD caregivers participated in a randomized field experiment to evaluate the effects of ComputerLink on confidence in decision making, decision-making skill, and social isolation. During the 1-year study period, AD caregivers averaged two encounters per week with Computer Link for sessions lasting an average of 13 minutes. Access to Computer Link enhanced caregivers'decision-making confidence. Decision-making skill was unaffected. ComputerLink access did not lead to changes in social isolation as measured by standard instruments. The decision-support function was used least often. Postings to ComputerLink's public bulletin board included both information-seeking and supportive messages. These findings are congruent with reports of other community-based interventions for caregivers and consistent with evaluations of computerized decision-support systems.

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