Internet based groups for older carers of people with learning disabilities can improve social support


We recently posted about the views of older people with learning disabilities and the things they wanted in relation to their support. In recent years there have also been a number of projects that have focused on ways to provide support to older carers of people. Those projects have suggested the key mediator role of social support for well-being for family carers.

The authors of the current study set out to look at what impact the internet may have on social support and subsequently the well-being of older carers. As social engagement often decreases with age, the possibility exists for the internet to broaden opportunities for older carers of to provide mutual support.

The review found there is a relative paucity of information regarding support on the internet for aging carers, particularly for aging carers for people with learning disabilities.

However, the authors suggest that older adults can acquire new technological abilities and there are cognitive benefits of learning new skills. They suggest that older carers and the people with learning disabilities they support can benefit when web sites designed with attention to clear layout and good usability.

They recommend the development of internet-based older carer support groups which incorporate educational content and the setting up of research projects to evaluate their effectiveness.

The internet as social support for older carers of adults with intellectual disabilities. Perkins, E, & LaMartin, K., in Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 9: 53–62.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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