Telecommunications Technology as an Aid to Family Caregivers of Persons With Dementia

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Abstract

Objective

The aging of the population implies that an increased number of people are going to need some form of care or assistance. Caregiving poses a range of physical, emotional, and financial demands and often causes burden and stress for family members. This article describes how technology can be used to provide support to caregivers and increase the quality of life for both caregivers and care recipients. Preliminary data from an ongoing study of dementia caregivers is provided to demonstrate the feasibility of using technological interventions for this population.

Methods

The intervention involves a telecommunications system designed to augment a family therapy intervention by enhancing access to formal and informal support services. Specifically the system is intended to facilitate linkages between caregivers and other family members, friends, and other caregivers as well as to facilitate access to information on available resources. A total of 76 caregivers of dementia patients, including Cuban American and white American caregivers, received the telecommunications intervention. Data include real-time usage data and measures of usability at 6 months, 12 months, and 18 months after the initiation of the intervention.

Results

The data reported in this article are based on responses to the usability questionnaire at 6 months from a sample of 44 caregivers. Overall the results indicate that the system is easy to use and the caregivers find it valuable. The most common reason that the caregivers use the system is to communicate with other caregivers, especially those who are not nearby. The caregivers, especially the Cuban Americans, reported that the system facilitated their ability to communicate with family members and their therapist. The caregivers also indicated that they found participation in the “online discussion” groups to be very valuable and also found the “online resource guide”useful.

Conclusions

The results demonstrate how current information and communication technologies can be used to help caregivers meet the challenges of caregiving and improve the quality of life for caregivers. The potential benefit of this type of technology for health care providers is also discussed.

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