A New Challenge For Caregivers: The Internet


08 Jun A New Challenge For Caregivers: The Internet

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What should caregivers do when their loved one is checking in on social media at the bank, essentially announcing their whereabouts? What if they are posting too often or don’t remember making online purchases?

In the age of online living, caregivers lack support, resources and guidelines to help the vulnerable people who rely on them, according to an initial study, to be presented May 12, at the Association for Computing Machinery Human Computer Interaction (ACM-CHI) conference in San Jose, California.

The study is one of the first to examine the role of caregivers in the online lives of adults with cognitive impairments from Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions. In a world where many everyday activities have moved online, caregivers face a new challenge: finding a balance between autonomy and protection of care recipients.

“We want people to stay independent and engaged online, but current online systems make it difficult to help people in a way that empowers them without reducing their access,”

said lead researcher Anne Marie Piper, assistant professor in the department of communication studies at Northwestern’s School of Communication.

“E-mail and social media sites aren’t designed to have a caregiver come alongside someone with cognitive impairments and help them stay active online.”

The researchers used focus groups consisting of 20 people informally caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other brain-related conditions. They detailed four main ways caregivers currently help people with cognitive impairments use the Internet — “guiding, stimulating, connecting, and protecting,” with guidelines about how to improve those dynamics.

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