In 2018, a survey found that 82% of the Irish population, across all age groups, had used the internet in some way in the three months preceding the survey (Central Statistics Office, 2018). Ninety-seven percent of those aged between 16 and 29, and nearly half of those aged between 60 and 74, had done so. It is clear, then, that increasingly the internet is becoming a tool that must be understood and utilised as a viable way to supplement supports for family carers.
In order to discover how family carers in Ireland are using – and could be using – online services and supports, Care Alliance Ireland (in consultation with the National Carers Week partner organisations) undertook a survey of Irish family carers in April 2019.
300 family carers responded online, and a summary of their responses are included here. The purpose of this report is to highlight how family carers are using the internet to connect with others, to get supports and information from not-for-profit and statutory agencies, and to manage their lives as family carers. It should be noted that this is not a representative sample of Irish family carers – the survey was administered online and disseminated via the National Carers Week Facebook page and other online channels.
Internet supports are not, of course, a substitute for significant one-to-one supports. There will always be a need for the timely and adequate provision of in-home respite, therapies and all the other supports which are necessary to create a positive environment for a family carer to provide the best possible care to a family member or friend. However, if used in conjunction with existing supports they can be a source of peer support and a way to tackle the social isolation and loneliness that many family carers experience – in particular in rural and geographically isolated locations.