Across the OECD countries, more than one in ten adults is involved in the informal caregiving of older relatives or friends, and close to one in three adults aged over 50 provides this kind of care[1]. Hence, some older adults are themselves caregivers, taking care of their parents, children’s children, neighbors or friends. Caring for an older relative may produce antagonistic feelings: on the one hand, the caregiver may see the caregiving process as a source of satisfaction, fulfilment and personal growth; but on the other hand, the provision of care is usually stressful and might generate negative effects such as an increased sense of burden. In fact, intensive caring has been associated with a negative impact on mental health and several other health indicators. Also, social consequences of becoming an informal caregiver can include being forced to quit a job and face a decrease on leisure and social interaction opportunities.

Informal caregivers frequently struggle with a diversity of concerns, some examples being the assurance of older adults’ security and well-being; the need for health information and practical advice on support strategies as well as on products and services. Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) solutions can help alleviating caregivers stress, improve their quality of life and ultimately increase the quality of the care provided. But do caregivers know those solutions at all? If so, what do caregivers think about it?

Barriers and facilitators to technology adoption

A baseline research work conducted within the ActiveAdvice project[2] provided some clues on what informal caregivers seem to want and fear regarding the use of ICT solutions to support care provision.

What do informal caregivers seem to want?

  • Informal caregivers tend to show interest on technological solutions. They seem to recognize ICT potentials for the facilitation of their daily tasks. However, the use of technology for this purpose is still scant.
  • Informal caregivers tend to prefer technology that offers peace of mind by helping them checking and monitoring (at distance) the care receiver. This type of solutions can facilitate, for example, the maintenance of a paid job by the caregiver.
  • They tend to perceive a lack of relevant information available on AAL technologies and its benefits, so they claim for more information and awareness raising on this topic. When it comes to online platforms providing information, informal caregivers tend to prefer those that can adjust to their specific needs rather than single-point solutions.

What do informal caregivers seem to fear?

  • Informal caregivers usually don’t want to invest too much time in learning how to use a device. This time investment could disrupt the already overloaded caregiving daily routines instead of supporting it. Hence, caregivers want easy to learn and to use solutions.
  • Informal caregivers might show concerns on the financial availability to invest in the acquisition of AAL technologies. ‘Willingness to pay for’, however, is dependent on the recognized benefits offered by those solutions.
  • Informal caregivers tend to have concerns about security, confidentiality and privacy when using ICT solutions.
  • Informal caregivers have shown to fear that ICT-based solutions might reduce their care receiver’s social interaction opportunities (e.g. with formal caregivers).

The informal support network around older adults – which includes relatives, friends, neighbours, and others – plays a big part in the decision-making process regarding the search and acquisition of ICT based products and services targeting the improvement of older adults’ quality of life, but also their own. On the near future, developers and providers have the responsibility, as well as the opportunity, to create solutions that help relief the burden of unpaid caregivers.

How can ActiveAdvice help you as a caregiver?

As a caregiver, have you ever looked for information on technologies targeted at helping older adults living independently? Did you ever searched for it online? If you did it you certainly felt that search required a lot of time and efforts from you, since information on technologies is disperse, and you can´t find any advice on it. If you are interested in Ambient/Active Assisted living technologies such as the ones we mentioned, the project ActiveAdvice will soon be able to support you in searching, get information and advice about the best solution for helping you supporting your care receiver and, as a consequence, improve your quality of life. Stay linked to our blog and subscribe to our newsletter for more information!

[1] (OECD, 2011)