A large share of the help and care that our elderly need is provided by working carers. How can information and communication technologies (ICT) help them in their caring role? Stefan Andersson, researcher at Linnaeus University, and Nationellt kompetenscentrum anhöriga (Nka) have looked into this in a new dissertation.
Many of us sometime in life find ourselves in a situation where we in different ways need to support and help elderly family members with care needs. This can be, for instance, adults providing unpaid help and care to their parents with dementia or stroke, in addition to working part or full time. Combining employment and unpaid care can be difficult and have a negative impact on carers' health and well-being, but also on their financial situation.
In his dissertation "Information and Communication Technology-mediated support for working carers of older people", Stefan Andersson has studied how ICT-mediated support can make it easier for working carers in their role as caregivers.
"This is a group of carers who have previously not received very much attention within research, yet they make up for a large proportion of carers that provide a large proportion of the care that is provided to elderly people. People in Sweden are getting older and older and the need for care will increase, which makes this a growing and important field", says Stefan Andersson.
The types of support that have been studied in the dissertation are web-based systems for information, education and networking as well as so-called welfare technologies like alarms, sensors and GPS.
Conclusions that can be drawn from Andersson's research are that ICT-based support can be a valuable supplement to other existing forms of support from carers. Web-based systems for information, education and networking provided access to support that was otherwise inaccessible because of a collision with work obligations.
Information, e-learning and education contributed to making working carers feel more competent and prepared in their role. It helped increase working carers' faith in their own capabilities and improved their ability to make a self-assessment of their own situation.
The use of technical aids like alarms, sensors and GPS also proved helpful for many working carers. It contributed to a sense of security, and the possibility to be able to monitor certain aspects of the care recipient's wellbeing from a distance was considered to offer good support.
Some working carers also had negative experiences with the support. Some felt an extra burden by having to handle alarms and other technical aids. Another aspect was the handling of technical difficulties when using web-based support, which reduced the possibility to use them in an optimal way.
"The results support the idea that ICT-based support can have a positive influence on the situation of working carers, but they also point out some challenges that need to be solved in order to optimise the support for each individual", Andersson concludes.
Stefan Andersson, specialist nurse within care of the elderly, lecturer at the department of health and caring sciences, Linnaeus University, The Swedish Family Care Competence Centre, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Liv Ravnböl, communications officer, email: email@example.com