Kristine Newman is an Assistant Professor at Ryerson University in the Faculty of Community Services, Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Newman’s program of research includes Knowledge Brokering, Youth relationships with persons with Dementia, and Gernotechnology. She is a founding member of the World Young Leaders in Dementia (WYLD) and sat on WYLD Steering Group Committee until January 2017. She is presently an Adviser to the WYLD Steering Group Committee.
Digital Inclusion of Unpaid Carers: Using Digital Technologies to Support Carers’ Access to Information and Peer Support
In Canada, 1 in 3 people are over the age of 55. People are living longer than ever before, but this longevity is not without challenges. Older Canadians experience unique and, in some cases, very complex mental and physical health concerns. As a result, a growing number of family members may have to become caregivers to support the needs of their older relatives. By 2020, it is estimated that 1 in 3 Canadians will be an unpaid caregiver. As an unpaid caregiver, one may have to balance their work, school, friends, and family members with their caring responsibilities. On average, unpaid Canadian caregivers spend 20 hours/week caring for one or more relative. This can make it challenging to maintain one’s social livelihood and spend time with friends and family, making caregivers susceptible to social isolation which can impact their mental health and wellbeing. To add to the existing knowledge about how we can best support unpaid caregivers, we conducted a review of literature on digital technologies that can be used to address social isolation among unpaid caregivers. Scholarly and grey literature were included in the review. A search strategy was developed and executed to identify relevant research evidence. Scholarly literature was searched using MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and CINAHL databases, and Grey literature was searched through Google search engine and through contacting various organizations and stakeholders. Two reviewers performed study selection and data extraction using standardized forms. Disagreements were resolved through discussion or third-party adjudication. Using a narrative synthesis, the body of research identified the nature of existing digital tools for unpaid caregivers, the effectiveness of these tools in reducing social isolation, and the acceptability of these tools in addressing caregivers’ social support needs. There are a sufficient number of studies to conduct a more focused systematic review.