Nicole Dalmer is a PhD Candidate in Library and Information Sciences in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at The University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario, Canada). Her institutional ethnographic doctoral research examines the often-invisible information work done by family caregivers of older adults. She is particularly interested in examining the intersections of information work and caring work; exploring the information-related work needed to care for an aging family member and the degree to which this work is recognized or obscured in aging in place policy and discourse. Ultimately, she aims to draw attention to the work involved in seeking, sharing and understanding information needed to provide care, information that is often scattered and fragmented across organizations and services. Wearing her other research hat, she also studies and advocates for the development of more responsive public library services for aging populations.
Explicating the information-care relationship in dementia care with participatory mapping methods
Objectives; Seeking, interpreting, managing and sharing information (examples of activities considered as information work) are key components of care provision. Information work saturates every facet of caregiving, providing tools for coping, problem solving and dealing with uncertainty through knowledge and support. Despite findings that extensive unmet caregiver needs persist, family caregivers’ information work is increasing in intensity given trends towards the informatization of care, that is, the provision of information used as a means to gradually marginalize care.To develop new insights into how family caregivers understand and perform the information work needed for care provision to community-dwelling older adults living with dementia, a mapping exercise based on Sonnenwald’s information horizons (1999) was appraised.
Method: The concept of information horizons involves the creation of a map of information sources and services based on an identified information need. Thirteen family caregivers of community-dwelling older adults living with dementia drew maps of their information worlds, graphically representing the information resources (people, agencies, texts and websites) they access within their care context.
Results & Conclusions: As information can be a nebulous concept to discuss, creating a map served as a helpful tool for caregivers to make visible the intricacies of their information work, including the barriers encountered and inventive strategies created to access, use and translate information. Results reveal the importance of preexisting relationships in shaping family caregivers’ information networks. As a means to more responsively support the information needs of family caregivers, this study signifies an innovative shift in the ways the complexities of searching for and using information on behalf of an aging family member are understood.