Digital Caregiving

By Beth Baker

Nov. 11, 2008

Some promising workplace support strategies for employees whose loved ones have Alzheimer’s disease involve low-cost technology. Many employers have Alzheimer’s information and links on their corporate Web sites. Others have gone a step further:

  • Intel partners with the National Family Caregivers Association to offer Connecting for Care, an online support network for employees and the wider community.

  • “Caregiver’s Friend: Dealing With Dementia” is a work-site-based Internet multimedia program developed by the Oregon Center for Applied Science in Eugene. The program, funded by the National Institute on Aging, offers individualized help and coping strategies through videos and text. In a study, participants using the program for only 32 minutes over a 30-day period reported significant improvements in depression, anxiety and stress. The program is now on the market for $40.

  • A pilot Wireless Interactive Networking project, developed by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital with National Institute on Aging support, offers employees caregiver services and a tool for monitoring elders at home. Through remote sensors, employees were able to check whether the elder had taken medications or had eaten lunch. They also had access to an online support group moderated by a geriatric nurse with a direct link to Alzheimer’s Association staff, among other features. Participants reported increased productivity and reduced stress. “It translated into increased morale and loyalty,” says Diane Feeney Mahoney, director of gerontechnology at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Institute of Health Professions. “They felt their bosses appreciated what they were going through, and that really made them feel much more satisfied at work.” Feeney Mahoney says she is optimistic that the program will go on the market in two to three years.

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