2018 Conference Presentation
Family members traditionally provide the bulk of dementia care. While many carers are passionate about caring for their relatives, the provision of care can have negative implications on carers’ physical and mental health. Many different types of technologies have been developed to help people supporting a person with dementia. However, little information is available on what technologies carers actually use in their everyday life, and how beneficial they find these technologies to be.
In this qualitative study we conducted interviews with 25 family carers of people with dementia in Southern England on how they use technology in their everyday life to assist them in supporting their relatives with dementia. The study aimed to interview family carers in different relations to the care recipient to gain an understanding of different care situations. The interviewees were wives, husbands, adult daughters and sons of people with dementia who also are enrolled in the MODEM cohort study. A random sub-sample of family carers was invited to participate in this qualitative study. Participants in the qualitative study care for their relatives living in the same home, living independently in the community, or residing in care homes. Different technologies identified were classified into the five categories: “safety tools, reminder tools, communication tools, training and information tools and life management tools”. Evidence from the interviews was then further classified as pointing towards benefits or limitations of the technologies. In several cases, carers found beneficial components of technologies as well as limitations. These have been analysed in detail. For instance, carers pointed to the timeliness of technological aids, such as, portable monitoring devices. With increasing severity people with dementia experienced greater difficulties operating emergency alarms, such as pendant or wrist alarms.
Through the qualitative nature of this study we could explore advantages the use of technologies can bring to carers’ lives, but also highlight their limitations. The results of this study contribute to increasing awareness that while technology can be used effectively to support people with dementia and their carers to live well, it is no panacea. Currently the diverse needs of people with dementia and their carers are not reflected well by technological tools, despite their growing number. We suggest, that in order to enhance an informed policy debate, a resource containing regularly updated information on a range of technologies that have been evaluated specifically for people with dementia would be useful both for users and policy makers. Such an information platform should also include experiential evidence provided by people with dementia and their carers. This paper emphasises the need for a greater effort in the evaluation of technologies in real life situations, including the voices of people with dementia and their carers, to enable users and policy makers to make informed choices how technologies could support them effectively, while also able to recognise their potential limitations.