Caring in the Information Age: Personal Online Networks to Improve Caregiver Support

Emily Piraino, Kerry Byrne, George A. Heckman, Paul Stolee



It is becoming increasingly important to find ways for caregivers and service providers to collaborate. This study explored the potential for improving care and social support through shared online network use by family caregivers and service providers in home care.


This qualitative study was guided by Rogers’ Theory of Diffusion of Innovations [NY: Free Press; 1995], and involved focus group and individual interviews of service providers (n = 31) and family caregivers (n = 4). Interview transcriptions were analyzed using descriptive, topic, and analytic coding, followed by thematic analysis.


The network was identified as presenting an opportunity to fill communication gaps presented by other modes of communication and further enhance engagement with families. Barriers included time limitations and policy-related restrictions, privacy, security, and information ownership.


Online networks may help address longstanding home-care issues around communication and information-sharing. The success of online networks in home care requires support from care partners. Future research should pilot the use of online networks in home care using barrier and facilitator considerations from this study.


home care; social support; continuity of care; diffusion of innovation; communication; online networks

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ISSN: 1925-8348 (Online)