ICT-based social support for carers of older people
Informal carers provide unpaid care, as well as practical and psychological support to dependent family members or friends. A carers' life is influenced gradually in different ways experiencing physical, psychological and financial burden.
In recent years, their role has been recognised worldwide, but still there are countries where legislation does not support carers. Moreover, in many EU member states very few contents and services for informal carers are currently available online. It is clear that the potential of the web is not yet exploited in all countries.
A specific social innovation within the Innovage project was aimed at developing a multilingual web platform addressing the most relevant informal carers’ needs, to be implemented in all 27 EU member states with both common and national-specific services. The platform included not only contents related to caregiving activities and coping strategies, but also interactive tools allowing informal carers and other target groups, such as care professionals and employers of working carers, to communicate, share their experiences and support each other.
INRCA, the Italian National Institute of Health and Science on Aging, and EUROCARERS, a non-profit organisation with an EU scope of supporting carers, were the main partners for the development, implementation and dissemination of the web platform.
The dissemination plan of the web platform initiated early in the lifetime of the project with the motivation of Eurocarers member organisations network. Users feedback was requested in all stages of development and design, investigating carers' needs, user-friendliness, graphic design, content development, sustainability and other dimensions.
As part of the disssemination activities, the web platform was disseminated in all EU member states. Presentation and training of the web platform to carers, care professionals and employers was part of the main dissemination plan. Scheduled activities included EU and national events with representatives of Eurocarers member organisations, users and relevant stakeholders.
On 6 and 7 May 2015, InformCare, the first EU-wide online support portal for informal carers, was launched in Brussels. InformCare is a joint initiative between Eurocarers and the Italian National Institute of Health and Science on Aging, and was one of the major outputs of the Innovage project.
Developed over a two and a half year period, InformCare offered five areas of support for carers, in national languages for all EU27 countries. Four main information sections dealt with:
Caring for the elderly
Your own needs
Support by the state
These sections were specifically designed and developed to address carers' needs, doubts and concerns, as well as providing links to additional local support and resources available in the carers' own country.
This was supported by a set of interactive services which provided a meeting point for carers. Provision varied in each country, but carers had access to one or more of
a dedicated social network
a forum and private messages
chat and video chat rooms
These tools all had the goal of enabling carers to easily get support from each other as well as from dedicated staff in their country.
In addition there were sections giving information about informal carers to care professionals and employers in ten countries.
International Carers Conference – 6 September 2015
The InformCare platform hosted a seminar at the International Carers Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden in September 2015.
Five speakers provided an overview of the platform:
Francesco Barbabella, National Institute of Health and Science on Aging, Italy and Areti Efthymiou, Eurocarers – The impact of web-based services in supporting family carers of older people: Results from a multicentre pilot study.
Benjamin Salzmann, Wir Pflegen e.V., Germany – Pilot study of the German Innovage internet platform for carers: Discussing usefulness and virtual social support.
Frida Andreasson and Elizabeth Hanson, Swedish Family Care Competence Centre – Online support for carers. Using a social forum and social network as a means of developing the role of informal caregiving.
Arianna Poli, National Institute of Health and Science on Aging, Italy – The Innovage-Eurocarers web platform supporting family carers of older people with dementia: Results from an Italian pilot study.