Modern technology to support carers of care recipients with dementia or functional mental illness: promising progress, but a long road ahead

Nicola T Lautenschlager, Janine Diehl-Schmid, Samantha M Loi, Johannes Mayer, Maria Tensil, Alexander F Kurz
International Psychogeriatrics 2017, 29 (12): 1933-1935
There is no doubt that family carers who look after a family member with dementia or with a functional mental illness fulfill an important role, not only for their loved one, but also for the health and aged care systems of the countries they live in. Due to increasing life expectancy, but also improved healthcare the number of family carers supporting older care recipients with functional mental illness or dementia is on the rise. While the carer role often can offer rewarding experiences caregivers are at increased risk of stress, depression, sleep problems, and often experience poor health outcomes with increased morbidity and mortality (Oyebode, 2003). Next to the stressors directly associated with the carer role, they often do not have the time to engage in healthy behavior to protect their physical, mental, and cognitive health (Loi et al., 2014). There is a wealth of literature providing evidence about effective strategies to support carers and the recent Lancet Commission on Dementia prevention, intervention, and care highlighted the importance of exploring how the use of technological innovations could support carers better (Livingston et al., 2017). The use of modern technology in this context can mean a variety of approaches, such as internet-based programs to provide education and skill-building, virtual support to assist with monitoring and managing challenging behavior, online support groups, and the use of assistive or therapeutic technology to improve safety, enable positive activities, and support communication between carer and care recipient, to name just a few (D'Onofrio et al., 2017; Ienca et al., 2017; Livingston et al., 2017). More specifically, telehealth approaches via videoconferences have the potential to better support carers who live in rural or remote regions (O'Connell et al., 2014) or who cannot attend face-to-face support programs for other reasons such as inability to leave the care recipient alone at home, being a multiple carer or having a disability themselves to give just some examples.

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