Family Caregivers Are Not Alone – But Are Online

Family caregivers of senior adults can become so focused on providing care they can feel they’re alone on an island. They may be focused but are certainly not alone, as more than 50 million adults in the US care for adult family members. 7 million of those also care for a minor child, putting them in the middle of the Triple Decker Sandwich.

Findings in “Family Caregivers Online”, a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, provide insight into the lives and online information-gathering activities of these caregivers and are the subject for the feature segment of this episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast.

Our overall takeaways from the report:

  • Family caregivers are certainly not alone in the role they fill;
  • Caregivers need to focus on their own needs in addition to those of the seniors for whom they care; and,
  • Seniors should continue to be urged to become active online and in social media for the potential benefits.

We often discuss the need for family caregivers to focus more on their own health and other needs in order to be at their best when providing care. That is reflected in the responses to the Pew survey, which found caregivers twice as likely as non-caregivers to have faced their own health crisis or emergency in the most recent year. They are also more likely to suffer from health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart conditions and other chronic health issues.

Seniors, as we reported, only recently achieved 50% online activity and still lag far behind all other adult age groups. That means it is often up to their family caregivers to effectively provide their access to the web. One indication is the 71% of online caregivers who reported that their latest web search for health information was conducted to meet the needs of others rather than for themselves.

One interesting statistic from the report is that ten times as many reported benefits resulting from online health information as did harm. While any harm is bad, of course, it was good to learn it was overwhelmed by the positive.

Pew also inquired into the sources caregivers find most helpful for health information. Not surprisingly, they overwhelming turn to health professionals for accurate diagnoses and prescription drug information. However, a majority turn to friends, family and other patients when seeking emotional support in dealing with health issues or their needs regarding everyday health situations.

News Items in this Episode

  • Elderly Medicare beneficiaries most satisfied with their health insurance
  • Home-based care teams offer help for those with dementia
  • Statins shown to cause fatigue
  • Alzheimer’s treatment shows promise in small 3-year trial

Links Mentioned in this Episode

One thing many family caregivers mentioned in the Pew survey was reaching out online for the experiences of others who have faced similar issues. Do you have a story to share with others? We’d love to have you share it here in a comment!

Podcast Transcript – so you can follow along or read at your convenience