We’ve heard from our partners that proactive measures are being taken to protect communities from and contain the spread of coronavirus nationwide. Adult day centers are closing, community organizations are limiting or cancelling classes & support groups, and many other services are being impacted. Organizations are forced to adapt to these changing circumstances in order to continue providing support to the family caregivers that they serve while keeping staff, caregivers, and loved ones safe. To help organizations adapt and maximize their ability to continue providing support, we’ve gathered our key learnings about supporting caregivers at a distance.
Personalization is Key
With this virus at the top of mind, every organization and association out there is sending mass communication with instructions for how to protect yourself and your community. News outlets are warning that such mass communication may cause “information overload”1. With an abundance of communication and messaging, caregivers may not know which instructions are correct to follow and may end up feeling more worried or anxious as a result.
Morrison (2015) states that within the health domain, personalized content can help reassure clients and patients that they are receiving and following advice that is right for them. Knowing that you, as a staff member they trust, recommended content to them has led to an increase in engagement and activation when compared to non-personalized recommendations. Direct family caregivers to specific resources or modules that you know will be helpful for their current care situation. For example, if you know from prior conversations that sleep and sundowning are issues, you can tailor your content recommendations to be unique to that caregiver. Directing caregivers to resources that will help them navigate these changing conditions can go a long way.
Promote Two-way Communication
Caregivers have reported that they often feel a sense of loneliness, whether it be due to feeling like their peers don’t understand what they’re going through or not having enough time to engage with their peers like they used to. Now more than ever, with the recommendation of social distancing, and in some cases self quarantine, organizations have to ensure they are prepared to promote caregiver wellness and reduce feelings of isolation.
When asked what technology design characteristics they would find most useful in an intervention, Schreve et al. (2016)2 found that caregivers highlighted the need for technology to alleviate the social isolation inherent in caregiving. Prioritizing bi-directional interventions will be an important strategy in supporting caregivers at a distance during this trying time. Blusi et al. (2014)3 found that internet interventions do in fact have the ability to reduce feelings of isolation among caregivers. We’ve seen this first hand, as our most engaged users are eager to use social features alongside the educational content.
Remove Friction and Facilitate Access
Under regular circumstances, programs or interventions may require lengthy intake questionnaires or surveys that are onerous and time consuming. While these processes are important for reporting and data collection, they can also add friction to the onboarding process and appear more onerous than helpful for caregivers.
Our team has found that simplifying and shortening the registration process substantially drives engagement. If you know your organization will need specific data for an annual report, you can take advantage of features like online surveys to collect data on an as-needed basis in the future. By removing the friction involved in registration and on-boarding, we can help caregivers receive the resources and support they need now.
Information sources are predominantly talking about closures, cancellations, and restrictions. This can leave organizations feeling helpless and concerned. However, it is important to remember that these unfortunate circumstances have also shed light on the unity and human connection that can develop out of hardship.
Our partners have told us that they are getting countless calls from the community asking what can be done for family caregivers and their loved ones during this time. Spreading the word about accessible and remote programs can help ensure family caregivers across the nation don’t go without care and support. Our partners that are having outsized impact with family caregivers leverage their network of community organizations as a channel to make sure caregivers know what is available to them during these tough times.
For more information about supporting caregivers at a distance contact Amber Fisher, Director of Care Solutions, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 917-975-9769.