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How Assistive Technology Use by Individuals with Disabilities Impacts Their Caregivers

A Systematic Review of the Research Evidence

Mortenson, W. Ben, PhD, MSc, BScOT; Demers, Louise, PhD, MSc, BScOT; Fuhrer, Marcus J., PhD; Jutai, Jeffrey W., PhD, CPsych; Lenker, James, PhD, MSc, BSc; DeRuyter, Frank, PhD, MA, BA

American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: November 2012 - Volume 91 - Issue 11 - p 984–998
doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e318269eceb
Review & Analysis

ABSTRACT Informal caregivers are a critical yet frequently unacknowledged part of the healthcare system. It is commonly presumed that providing assistive technology will decrease the burden of their care provision; however, no review has evaluated the evidence behind this assumption. Therefore, a systematic review was undertaken to evaluate evidence of the impact of assistive technology use by care recipients on their informal caregivers. Data sources included EMBASE, MEDLINE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Web of Science, PsychINFO, PubMed, and active researchers in this area. Twenty-two studies met the specified inclusion criteria. Collectively, the findings suggest that assistive technology use helps caregivers by diminishing some of the physical and emotional effort entailed in supporting individuals with disability. However, confidence in this causal connection is limited because of the study designs that were used. This undermines the understanding of the impacts of assistive technology use on the users’ informal caregivers.

From the Centre de recherche de l’institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, Montreal, Canada (WBM, LD); Gerontology Research Centre, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada (WBM); Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland (MJF); École de réadaptation, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada (LD); Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa and Bruyére Research Institute, Ottawa, ON, Canada (JWJ); the Department of Rehabilitation Science, University at Buffalo, New York (JL); and the Department of Surgery, Division of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina (FD).

All correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to: W. Ben Mortenson, PhD, MSc, BScOT, Gerontology Research Centre, Harbour Centre 2800, Simon Fraser University, 515 West Hastings St, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6B 5K3.

Supported by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (grant no. H133A060062) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) (grant no. 232262). Personal financial support for Dr Mortenson was provided by a CIHR postdoctoral fellowship in the area of Aging and Mobility from the Institute of Aging.

Presented at the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine-American Society of Neurorehabilitation Conference, October, Montreal, PQ (Mortenson WB, Demers L, Jutai J, Fuhrer MJ, Lenker J, DeRuyter F: Impacts of assistive technology interventions on informal caregivers of adults with chronic physical impairments: A systematic review. 2010) and at the 2011 Disability, Aging and Technology, Disability, Aging and Technology, June, Toronto, ON (Mortenson WB, Demers L, Jutai J, Fuhrer MJ, Lenker J, DeRuyter F: Impacts of assistive technology interventions on informal caregivers. 2011) (portions of the findings).

Financial disclosure statements have been obtained, and no conflicts of interest have been reported by the authors or by any individuals in control of the content of this article.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.