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Keywords:

  • assisted-living;
  • burden;
  • informal carers;
  • remote monitoring;
  • telecare;
  • well-being

Abstract

Telecare devices have been put forward as a potentially effective intervention to benefit the well-being and functioning of informal carers of people with social care needs, and to reduce the negative effects of providing care to a family member or friend. Much of the evidence used to support this view is qualitative, and therefore does not provide good-quality evidence to answer questions about its effect on carer outcomes. This review aimed to document and evaluate the quantitative evidence base for the effect of telecare interventions on outcomes for informal carers. A systematic search was conducted between October 2009 and January 2010 to identify peer-reviewed and ‘grey’ intervention evaluations, using electronic databases and expert/interested party recommendations. Clear inclusion and exclusion criteria and a reliable screening process were applied to select papers for inclusion in the review, and a checklist was used to assess risk of bias for each evaluation. Of 1071 identified evaluations, seven fulfilled the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Of these, two were peer-reviewed, and the remainder were unpublished or internal reports. Included evaluations were heterogeneous; they had investigated diverse technologies and outcomes, using varied evaluation designs and measures. All included evaluations were rated as being of weak methodological quality, indicating risk of bias within the evidence base. The evidence tentatively indicated that telecare exerts a positive effect on carer stress and strain, but there is no evidence to indicate benefits on burden or quality of life. The evidence is conflicting about the effect of telecare on the amount of time carers spend on their caring duties, and on relationships between the carer, cared-for person and other family members. Additional good-quality evaluations are required to establish the effects of telecare on informal carer outcomes.