Objective: With the increase in life expectancy and growth in the number of frail elderly, the demand for complex care will increase. In 2035, about 54% of the Dutch population will be over 65 years of age. Loneliness will be a problem in an estimated 30–40% of these elderly. Most elderly prefer care at home and in most cases this is less expensive than institutionalised care. Both client and care provider could benefit from systems using advanced technology to support people at home. CareTV is a technological solution, which allows users to interact with carers, family and friends from their home. In prior research users mentioned that CareTV expanded their social contacts, but it had not been measured if feelings of loneliness as a consequence have decreased. This paper reports on research whether CareTV is a valid instrument for elderly to engage in meaningful social contacts by a video connection to avoid loneliness.
Main content of the paper: 130 clients of home care organisation Proteion Thuis participated in this study and were connected to CareTV. Participants included men and women with an average age of 73,8 years. 45 clients terminated their participation during the trial period and were excluded. The CareTV duplex video/voice network allowed clients to communicate 24 hours, 7 days a week with a nurse practitioner. Applications of CareTV are (1) Alarm Service (2) Care Service (3) Good morning/good evening service (4) Welfare and housing and (5) Family Contact. During the one year trial period, feelings of loneliness and safety have been measured using a questionnaire. Social and emotional feelings of loneliness were measured with the validated 11-item loneliness-scale from de Jong-Gierveld. Safety has been measured with a not-validated 9-item scale. In addition, clients' experiences were evaluated in open questions in the survey.
Results: The results show that the average feeling of loneliness at group level significantly (p<0,001) decreased from 5,97 to 4,02 (sd 3,91) between start and end of the study on a scale from 0 till 11. Social loneliness (5-items) as well as emotional loneliness (6-items) showed significant decreases. To evaluate safety, no sum score could be calculated, but on item level: for 5 out of 9 items, most clients felt less safe after one year. For one item most clients had improved feelings of safety and for three items, most clients had an equal score.
Conclusion: Feelings of loneliness significantly decreased within one year. As loneliness is a problem in an estimated 30-40% of the elderly, CareTV seems to be a suitable instrument for elderly, to live longer at home with less feelings of loneliness. Feelings of safety on item level did not seem to improve, this might be due to the fact that no validated scale was used. On the other hand, comments of individual clients with respect to safety were: ‘CareTV makes me feel safe’. In future a study with a validated safety scale should be performed in order to clarify the effect of CareTV on feelings of safety.