The duality in using information and communication technology in elder care

Authors

  • Stefan Sävenstedt PhD RNT,

  • P.O. Sandman PhD RN,

  • Karin Zingmark PhD RN


Stefan Savenstedt,
Department of Health Science,
Lueå University of Technology,
Hedenbrovagen, Boden, 961 36 Boden,
Sweden.
E-mail: stefan.savenstedt@ltu.se

Abstract

Aim.  The aim of this paper is to report a study illuminating values and perceptions held by professional carers of older people about the use of information and communication technology applications.

Background.  Various information and communication technology applications have successfully been developed to help solve a variety of problems in elder care. Beside different technical barriers and the assumed negative attitudes among older people, staff values and attitudes have been found to be an important cause of resistance to change and slowness in introduction of information and communication technology in health care of older people.

Methods.  An interview study was conducted in 2004 with 10 healthcare personnel with 3–26 years experience of working in home care and nursing homes in Northern Sweden. Qualitative content analysis was used to identify recurring themes in the data.

Results.  The interpretation of values and perceptions among carers revealed a duality where the carers perceived information and communication technology as a promoter of both inhumane and humane care, a duality that seemed to make them defensive and resistant to change. Within the overall duality, other dualities were embedded that described both perceptions about the care of older people and about being a carer. There was evidence of resistance among professional carers towards an introduction of information and communication technology applications in elder care. Carers considered that the same attributes of information and communication technology that could promote humane care could also lead to dehumanized care.

Conclusion.  There should be an ethical discussion when introducing information and communication technology applications in elder care. The best caring alternative for all those concerned should be considered. It should promote aspects of wellbeing and dignity for frail older people and fears of inhumane care among carers must be recognized and discussed.

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