Understanding Internet Use Among Dementia Caregivers: Results of Secondary Data Analysis Using the US Caregiver Survey Data.Interact J Med Res. 2015 Feb 23; 4(1):e1.IJ
Informal caregivers of persons with dementia experience higher levels of chronic stress in the caregiving trajectory. The Internet provides diverse types of caregiver resources that may help ameliorate their stress and relevant negative outcomes. However, there is limited information about the prevalence and factors of using Internet-based resources for health- and caregiving-related purposes in informal caregivers of persons with dementia.
Specific aims of this study were (1) to determine the prevalence and factors of caregiver's health-related Internet use and (2) to compare sociodemographic and caregiving-related characteristics between health-related Internet users and non-health-related Internet users among informal caregivers of persons with dementia.
This quantitative investigation was a descriptive correlational design using a secondary data analysis. Primary data were collected via a survey conducted in 2009 by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the American Association of Retired Persons. Telephone interviews utilizing standardized questionnaires were used to collect self-reported information about sociodemographics and caregiving-related history (N=450). Descriptive statistics and a hierarchical binary logistic regression analysis were completed based on the stress process model.
Approximately 59% (265/450) of dementia caregivers were identified as health-related Internet users. Caregivers' sociodemographics and their subjective responses of caregiving stress were the most significant factors to identify health-related Internet users followed by workload assisting in instrumental activities of daily living of persons with dementia. There were significant differences for caregiver's age, levels of education and income, hours spent caregiving, and the relationship to persons with dementia between health-related Internet users and non-health-related Internet users (P<.05 for all). After controlling for confounding effects, younger age of persons with dementia (OR 0.278, 95% CI 0.085-0.906), higher education levels of caregivers (OR 3.348, 95% CI 2.019-5.552), shorter caregiving time spent per week (OR 0.452, 95% CI 0.243-0.840), higher levels of caregiver's emotional stress (OR 1.249, 95% CI 1.004-1.555), and financial hardship (OR 4.61, 95% CI 1.416-14.978) were identified as newly emerging factors of health-related Internet use.
Although the Internet provided useful resources for caregivers of persons with dementia, dementia caregivers reported lower levels of health-related Internet use compared to the general public. Our findings confirmed the impact of age, education levels, and/or income on Internet use reported in previous studies. However, the predictive value of subjective responses of caregiving stress for health-related Internet use was a new addition. These findings will assist health care providers, researchers, and policy makers in identifying who is the least likely to access Internet-based resources and how Internet-based strategies can best be designed, implemented, and distributed to meet the needs of this group of users.