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Stress in the volunteer caregiver: Human-centric technology can support both caregivers and people with dementia

Background and Objectives: Currently, one in eight people over the age of 65 have dementia, and approximately 75% of caregiving is provided by volunteer family members with little or no training. This study aimed to quantify points of stress for home-based caregivers with the aim of reducing stress for them while concurrently supporting quality of life for the people with dementia whom they cared for. The overreaching purpose was to increase our knowledge of the caregiver stress burden and explore potential technologies and behaviors to ease it. Materials and Methods: We interviewed home-based and professional caregivers regarding causes of emotional and physical stress and methods they used to alleviate it. Results: This study found that: (1) dementia symptoms created a burden of stress for home-based caregivers primarily in the areas of medication management, memory loss, hygiene care and disruptive behaviors; (2) home-based caregivers identified “finding available resources” as the most important source of stress relief; (3) a minority of home-based caregivers possessed a resource network and knew how to find resources but all professional caregivers were able to find resources and support; (4) home-based caregivers combated dementia symptoms with positive distractions and human touch with little use of technology, since it was mostly unknown; and 5) facility-based caregivers were knowledgeable and readily used dementia-based technology. Conclusion: Since professional caregivers have access to technological resources that our home-based caregivers lack, one might logically conclude that we should transfer technology used by professionals to those with dementia. However, great caution needs to be in place before we take that step. Successful technology should address the human experience as home-based caregivers try to use new technologies. Human-centric technology addresses the needs of both people with dementia and the home-based caregiver. 

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