Technology Could Aid Caregivers

January 10, 2011 ( – A new survey reveals that technology advances could potentially help caregivers watch over a sick or disabled loved one.

A news release said the e-Connected Family Caregiver: Bringing Caregiving into the 21st Century study found more than two-thirds of family caregivers who have used technology to help them with caregiving believe Web-based and mobile technologies designed to facilitate caregiving would be helpful to them. The research was co-sponsored by the National Alliance for Caregiving and insurer UnitedHealthcare.

“We know that our nation’s caregivers often put the needs of their care recipients ahead of their own, which can compromise their own health and create a stressful lifestyle,” said Richard Migliori, executive vice president, Business Initiatives and Clinical Affairs, UnitedHealth Group, in the news release.

All of the caregivers who participated in the survey have used the Internet or some other technology to help them provide care, including:

  • Searching the Internet for information or support related to caregiving was the most commonly cited use of technology (70% of survey respondents);
  • Using an electronic organizer or calendar to help them with caregiving (47%); or 
  • Participating in a caregiving-related blog or online discussion (11%).

Four in 10 respondents (41%) have used some other technological device or system – other than a standard computer or cell phone – to help them with their caregiving.

According to the news release, caregivers are most receptive to technologies that help them deliver, monitor, track or coordinate their loved one’s health care:

  • 77% of caregivers reported that a Web site or computer software that could help them keep track of their care recipient’s personal health records, including his or her history, symptoms, medications and test results, would be very or somewhat helpful to them;
  • 70% of caregivers indicated that a shared electronic log for their loved one’s doctor appointments and other caregiving needs would be helpful; and
  • A device that reminds the patient about his or her prescription medications and dispenses pills when they should be taken would be helpful to 70% of family caregivers.

Expense Fears 

Strong majorities of caregivers – between 60% and 70% – indicated that three other technologies would also be helpful for them, but more than half of the survey respondents reported that barriers such as perceived expense of the technology and concern that the care recipient would not accept the technology could prevent them from trying the new tools:

  • 70% of survey respondents said an electronic device that would send information such as blood sugar or blood pressure readings to a doctor or care manager to help them manage their care recipient’s condition would be helpful;
  • 62% of caregivers reported that a TV-based device, similar to a Wii Fit, that would allow the caregiver to create a schedule of gentle physical activities and mental games for the care recipient would be helpful;
  • A phone with video capability or an Internet-connected computer with Webcam that allows the caregiver to see the care recipient when they’re not able to physically be together would be helpful for 61% of caregivers; and
  • Sixty-nine percent also report they would be somewhat or very receptive to using a smartphone for applications to help them with caregiving.

This report is based on a quantitative online survey of 1,000 family caregivers, age 18 or older, who provide at least five hours per week of unpaid care to an adult relative or friend who needs help because of a physical or mental illness, disability or frailty. The questionnaire was fielded from November 9 to 22, 2010. Respondents are general population members of an online panel who were screened for their caregiver status.

The research report is here