The effect of home monitoring technology on reducing burden in caregivers of older adults with disabilities
Russ, Linda S
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Computer-based home monitoring systems can be useful to caregivers of frail older adults living alone by enhancing contact between the caregiver and care recipient via e-mail use and a personal assistance security system (PASS). The study utilized a two group quasi-experimental design of 50 caregivers to frail elders living alone who participated in the Smart Home Project by the Technology and Aging Research at the University at Buffalo. This was the last piece of the project, and is the first study focusing on the impact of smart home technology on caregivers of persons without cognitive impairment. The intervention involved installation of the PASS in the care recipient's home, a system which can be activated by the care recipient to contact the caregiver by telephone in emergencies. Caregivers received a questionnaire at 0, 6, and 12 months that included the Zarit Burden Interview, the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, the Picot Caregiver Reward Scale, and questions pertaining to their background characteristics, attitudes and levels of involvement regarding caregiving and computer e-mail use. Care recipients' health and functional status were examined to determine their influence on the caregivers' outcome measures. The study sample was divided into treatment (care recipients receiving PASS) and control (care recipients without PASS) groups. These groups were further divided into e-mail users and non-users. Analysis of the sample data comparing depression, burden, and caregiving satisfaction between the groups over time using repeated measures ANOVA found that the PASS appears to be effective in preventing a significant increase in caregiver depression and burden, but does not have any effect on caregiving satisfaction. E-mail use was found to be effective in preventing a significant increase in caregiver depression and burden in specific segments of the sample, but had no effect on caregiving satisfaction. PASS and e-mail use combined is the most effective way to prevent significant increases in caregiver depression and burden. The findings indicate that practical and low cost technology, such as the PASS and e-mail, can have a positive impact for certain caregivers. Use of these technologies should be encouraged to enhance caregiver well-being.