Background: We are living in a digital society where many aspects of our lives are facilitated through - and increasingly dependent on - using information and communication technology (ICT) such as the internet, computers and mobile phones. A proliferation of ICT applications have the potential to assist carers and to reduce the challenges of caring. Increasingly social services and voluntary organisations provide information and support online as well as offer technology-based interventions. Thus, carers face increased opportunity as well as increased pressure to engage with ICT.
Objectives: Our study, funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research, aims to examine the effect of ICT use on carers' quality of life and wellbeing and the quality of life of the person they provide care to. Ethics approval for this study was obtained from the Social Care Research Ethics Committee.
Methods: We surveyed a sample of carers of people with dementia, drawn for the DETERMIND study led by Brighton and Sussex Medical School which aims to find out which groups have better or worse outcomes following diagnosis of dementia and why there are inequalities in care and outcomes. We assessed the quality of life of the carer and cared-for person (using EQ-5D, DEMQOL and DEMQOL-proxy), time spent caring, and carer wellbeing (using CWS). Our initial descriptive analysis identified the types of ICT carers use for care-related purposes, for what purposes they use them, and whether they find them helpful. Also, among respondents who do not use ICT, the reasons given for not using ICT and the difficulties faces were also identified. Cross-sectional analysis using multivariate regression models examined the association between scores on quality of life and well-being measures and the use of ICT for a range of tasks. Regression models adjusted for carer and cared-for person characteristics such as age, gender, relationship between carer and cared-for person etc.
Results: A wide range of types of ICT use, for a broad range of functions, among our sample. Quality of life and wellbeing scores also varied widely across the sample. There was some evidence that some quality of life and wellbeing scores are associated with use of ICT for certain functions, after adjusting for demographic characteristics.
Conclusions: Our results provide evidence for local authorities, carers and carer organisation as to the potential benefits of ICT in facilitating particular tasks in supporting people with dementia and challenges that are likely to be encountered.