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Electronic Support of Family Caregivers in the Home

By Debi Boyle MSN, RN, AOCNS, FAAN
Lay family caregivers may feel alone and vulnerable when providing care to their loved one outside of the hospital and clinic setting. Offered little preparatory training and ongoing consultation, they manage their ill loved one’s care in isolation.1  Nurse researchers from Australia recently reported on the feasibility, usability, and acceptability of a specialized web-based intervention to support family caregivers in the home.2

The smartphone-based Carer Guide app is comprised of seven sections that address caregivers’ information needs. These include cancer information, caregiver information, well-being, my social support, financial and legal, hospital information, and medical technology. Additionally, a notepad and contacts link (i.e., listing of national information and support organizations) were also provided. Over a 30-day period, this app was trialed by 26 family caregivers of patients with colorectal cancer receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy. In addition to having accessibility to the seven sections, the participants received two email reminders weekly related to their health and well-being (i.e., “Take time out for yourself”) and the availability of support (i.e., “Information on holiday programs”).

Using Google Analytics, a total of 71 log ins and an average usage time of 22 minutes over the trial period was noted.2 Caregivers found the Carer Guide App easy to navigate and the email messages helpful. Of the seven information sections, cancer information, carer information, and medical terminology were the highest rated. Last but certainly not least was the statement made by two of the carers in the trial. They relayed that the app gave them the confidence to deal with cancer-related issues and that it was the first time they felt someone cared about their needs.

1. Boyle DA (2017). The caregiving quandary. Clin J Oncol Nurs, 21(2): 139.
2. Helensburgh N, Heckel L, Botti M, Livingston PM (2019). A Smartphone App to support carers of people living with cancer: A feasibility and usability study. JMIR Cancer, 5(1): e11779. Doi: 10.2196/11779.
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