MADISON, Wis. – One in five people in the United States is a caregiver to a family member or friend. One in four is caring for someone with dementia.
With a growing aging population, the demand for caregiving is increasing. However, the tools to provide guidance and support are not.
“She’ll be up all night, then I’m up all night and that usually doesn’t go well.” Says Gail Morgan. “My dad at the very end could not walk, couldn’t talk, couldn’t lift a glass of water to his mouth.” Explains Naveena Jaspal.
Caregiving is hard.
“Right now, caregivers are experiencing a lot of unmet needs. These people are giving themselves completely to the person they care for and not getting a lot of support for themselves.” States Nicole Werner, PhD, at the University of Wisconsin.
But a new web-based app is looking to ease that burden. It’s called CareVirtue.
“What we’re trying to do with apps like CareVirtue is really build that caregiving team or caregiving network through the app, so that they can have support for asking for help.” Explains Professor Werner.
The app allows family members and others involved in the caregiving to communicate and share important care information. They can also track symptoms and behaviors over time. For caregivers caring for someone with dementia, that can be crucial.
“They had documentation. They felt more comfortable in sort of bringing their concerns to other parties and they felt more validated.” Says Anna Linden PhD Student at the University of Wisconsin.
A tool like this could have given Christine Nash more support when she was caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s.
“The biggest obstacle for me was siblings not believing she had Alzheimer’s. And so, it made it a struggle when I reached out to them and asked for help.” Says Christine Nash.
But now access to that support can be at the fingertips of many caregivers. The researchers are currently testing the web-based app CareVirtue with a couple hundred caregivers. They are also developing another app with Indiana University to help caregivers with managing medications.
There are several other websites like Caring Bridge and Lotsa Helping Hands that also offer support to caregivers.