Carers using assistive technology in dementia care at home: a mixed methods study.
Sriram V., Jenkinson C., Peters M.
INTRODUCTION: Informal carers support persons with dementia to live at home, even with deteriorating physical, social and cognitive issues. This study aims to examine the experiences and impact of Assistive Technology (AT) on carers, providing care for a person with dementia. METHODS: This is an explanatory sequential mixed methods study. The quantitative phase was an online and postal survey using the Carers Assistive Technology Experience Questionnaire and Short Form-12 (SF-12) questionnaire, with carers of persons with dementia in the UK, who used AT. The qualitative phase involved in-depth telephone interviews with a purposive sample of survey respondents and was analysed using hermeneutic phenomenology to develop, compare and explain the findings of the survey. RESULTS: The survey included data from 201 carers. Smartphones (45.5%) and tablet computers (45.0%) were the most frequently used AT. Multiple AT were used in the care of persons with dementia predominantly for safety (78.5%), communication (66.0%), and reminders (62.5%). The SF-12 indicated that carers in the 46-65 age group and carers who were not extremely satisfied with AT had lower mental component scores whilst carers who lived with the person with dementia and older carers had lower physical component scores. Twenty-three carers participated in the interviews, and 5 themes with 14 sub-themes were identified. The interviews helped confirm data from the survey on the impact of AT on the physical, mental and social wellbeing of the carers. It helped describe reasons for satisfaction with AT; how AT was used in daily life and strengthened caring relationships and how wider support systems enhanced the care of a person with dementia using AT. CONCLUSIONS: This study describes the use of AT in the real-world context. AT supplements the care provided to people with dementia in the community. Appropriate use, access to AT and abilities of the carer can enhance the support provided through AT to both carers and the person with dementia.