Caregivers Hit The Web, Now More Than Ever

Where do most caregivers get the information they need to take care of a loved one? Apparently on the Internet, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

Some 67 percent of caregivers who have internet access look online for health information, outpacing other Internet users on every health topic included in the study, from looking up certain treatments to hospital ratings to end-of-life decisions.

“Caregivers use the internet to navigate the frontier of home health care,” says Susannah Fox, an associate director of the Pew Internet Project and lead author of the study. “Caregivers not only care for their loved one’s physical and emotional needs, but their information needs as well, and the internet is a key resource.”

So what does this tell us about caregivers and their online habits? It confirms what most studies (including from AARP) have suggested: Caregivers often disregard or lessen their own health situations when caring for another.

Here are some key findings to further this conclusion about online caregivers:

  • 44% used the web to research another’s personal health history, compared to 29% of non-caregivers
  • 26% tried to find someone with similar health concerns to 15% of non-caregivers
  • 28% use social networking sites, like Facebook, to get health updates, compared to 21% of non-caregivers
  • 38% consulted review of drugs or medical treatments,  just 18% of non-caregivers
  • 20% have consulted rankings of hospitals, nursing homes, care facilities compared to 12% of non-caregivers
  • 76% researched a specific disease or medical problem (Search terms like: “alzheimers,” “dementia,” etc.)

… Being a caregiver in and of itself is associated with a greater likelihood of using the Internet, particularly to get and share health information,” the study concludes.

While the study didn’t show what caregiving resources the survey responders accessed, they did show what tech they used:

  • 55% of caregivers polled have a laptop; 64% have a desktop
  • 90% have a mobile phone (They didn’t specify a smart phone from standard mobile phone)
  • 87% have high-speed connection at home.

So what resources are there for caregivers?

  • For disease specific information, you can safely count on organizations such as Alzheimer’s Association, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and so on.  Google any condition and it likely has an association.
  • For veterans and caregiver of veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs has its own caregiving website that has contact information and phone numbers.
  • For state-specific public programs available to you, that’s a toughie because you’re relying on your state to keep the pages updated with latest incentives. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging is the main organization that oversees local chapters of AAAs, which provide the local support you might need. To find one near you, click here.  AARP also has a tool called Benefits QuickLINK that can help you find local prescription drug programs and food benefits for yourself or the loved you’re caring for.
  • Finally, AARP recently relaunched its Caregiving Resource Center, which has checklists, how-tos, videos, Q&As with caregiving experts and more. The center covers all phases of caregiving from getting started to end-of-life planning.

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