Do technology-based support groups reduce care burden among dementia caregivers? A review

Paper to be presented at #husITa16 in Seoul, Korea, 29 June 2016.


Eunyoung Lee (McGill University, Canada).


Purpose: Dementia has a negative impact on caregivers as well as care recipients. Most caregivers take care of care recipients with dementia at home instead of placing them in institutions. Many programs and services have been aiding caregivers of care recipients with dementia by utilizing social support groups to reduce care burden. Most social support groups are provided face-to-face. However, transportation problems and difficulty finding respite care may prevent caregivers from attending face-to-face social support groups. Technology-based social support groups attempt to circumvent this problem by providing the social support groups in the caregiver’s home (via technology). Technology-based support groups for caregivers are often more accessible and convenient than attending face-to-face support groups. This review examines the effectiveness of technology-based social support groups on reducing care burden among caregivers of individuals with dementia.
Methods: Studies were identified through 10 online bibliographic databases. Inclusion criteria: (1) published before December 2012, (2) rigorous study design, (3) English language, (4) peer-reviewed journals, (5) home-based care, (6) telephone or Internet support group utilized at home, (7) outcome measure of care burden or caregiver stress. The following exclusion criteria were applied: (1) the study appeared in the gray literature, (2) participants took care of patients with dementia in institutional settings, and (3) the study was purely qualitative or employed case study methodology.
Results: Technology-based social support groups enjoy a modest level of positive outcomes, appear to be low cost, and pose little risk of harmful effects while reducing care burden in caregivers.
Implications: Based on the five studies reviewed, technology-based support group services have demonstrated a positive impact on reducing care burden among dementia caregivers; and improve support networks similarly to the way face-to-face support groups connect participants.


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