As we navigate through the complex experience of caregiving, it is often the informal caregivers, such as close friends or relatives, who become the unsung heroes of caregiving at home. These caregivers are the ones who provide the much-needed support and assistance that patients require to live life with some semblance of normalcy.
For informal caregivers, providing care for a loved one can be emotionally, physically, and mentally challenging. They often have to adapt to a new role as the primary caregiver, while also managing their own lives and responsibilities. Consequently, caregiving can take a toll on these caregivers’ well-being, with many experiencing stress and burnout. Interventions designed to provide support to these caregivers are thus crucial. To this end, our recent study identified important unmet needs of informal caregivers and provided design suggestions for a persuasive e-coaching application using the persuasive system design (PSD) model. The PSD model offers a systematic approach to designing IT interventions.
Using a qualitative research approach, we interviewed 13 informal caregivers and conducted a thematic analysis of the data. From this analysis, six needs were identified: monitoring and guidance, assistance in navigating formal care services, access to practical information without feeling overwhelmed, a sense of community, access to informal support, and the ability to accept grief. These needs formed the basis for suggested design features in an e-coaching application, using the PSD model.
However, we found that some needs could not be mapped using the existing PSD model. As such, we adapted the model to better address the needs of informal caregivers.
By identifying the needs of informal caregivers and providing design suggestions for an e-coaching application, this study offers support and hope for those navigating the challenging role of caregiving. The suggestions for e-coaching applications using the PSD model have the potential to ease the caregiving burden, as well as provide caregivers access to the support and resources they need to provide better care, which is an essential factor in improving both the caregiver’s well-being and the overall quality of care provided to patients. This study highlights the importance of providing support to informal caregivers and demonstrates the potential of technology-based interventions to improve caregivers’ lives. With further development and refinement, e-coaching applications designed based on the PSD model could become valuable tools for supporting and empowering informal caregivers.
In today’s fast-paced world, anxiety has become a prevalent and concerning issue affecting individuals of all ages. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this problem, with feelings of fear, worry, and uncertainty becoming more common. As we strive to find effective interventions for anxiety, the emerging field of connected health, combined with biofeedback techniques, holds great promise.
Understanding Anxiety Anxiety, a complex interplay of psychological and physiological factors, manifests as a state of fear, uneasiness, and nervousness. It is a natural response to stress, serving as a signal of potential danger. However, when anxiety becomes persistent and overwhelming, it may indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder. These disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, can significantly impact a person’s well-being and quality of life.
The Rise of Anxiety Anxiety disorders have been on the rise globally, and Sweden is no exception. Self-reported anxiety and nervousness have witnessed an 11% increase in the country between 2011 and 2021. Women tend to be more affected than men across all age groups. The contributing factors to anxiety disorders are multifaceted, including difficult life experiences, environmental influences, health behaviors, and various physical factors such as genetics and brain chemistry.
Connected Health Interventions for Anxiety Connected health, the integration of information communication technology into healthcare, offers innovative solutions for managing anxiety. Among the various digital interventions, biofeedback stands out as a non-pharmacological and non-invasive approach. Biofeedback leverages the measurement of physiological changes associated with psychological states, enabling individuals to monitor and control their bodily functions influenced by anxiety.
Advantages of Biofeedback Technological advancements have made biofeedback more accessible, affordable, and user-friendly. It allows individuals to gain awareness and insight into their physiological changes, empowering them to better regulate their mental states. Biofeedback can help individuals recognize internal states linked to arousal and relaxation, fostering a sense of self-efficacy and control. By addressing both psychological and physiological symptoms, biofeedback holds immense potential in anxiety detection and treatment.
Types of Biofeedback and Their Applications Biofeedback utilizes various sources of biodata, including respiration, brain activity (neurofeedback), muscle tension, skin conductance, temperature, and heart rate variability. Our systematic literature review has revealed that biofeedback interventions for anxiety primarily leverage two types of feedback: modifications to user interface and experience or visual presentations of physiological changes. Virtual Reality (VR) has emerged as a powerful tool, enhancing the efficacy of biofeedback interventions by providing immersive exposure therapy experiences. Serious games coupled with biofeedback have also shown promising results, influencing behavior and facilitating learning.
Biofeedback is often combined with relaxation techniques, such as progressive relaxation, breathing exercises, and meditation. These practices have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing anxiety and stress. In biofeedback-based interventions, individuals receive real-time feedback on their physiological measurements, fostering a deeper understanding of the mind-body connection. Music therapy, coupled with biofeedback, has also yielded positive outcomes, regulating both physical and mental health.
The Road Ahead As we delve deeper into the realm of biofeedback-based connected health interventions for anxiety, ongoing research and development are crucial. Further exploration of different sensors, treatment techniques, and physiological data collection methods will enhance the efficacy and accessibility of these interventions. Collaborations between researchers, clinicians, and technology experts hold the potential to transform anxiety management and empower individuals to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.
Reference: Alneyadi, M., Drissi, N., Almeqbaali, M., and Ouhbi, S. (2021). Biofeedback-based Connected Mental Health Interventions for Anxiety: Systematic Literature Review. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 9(4): e26038, doi: 10.2196/26038
In our research group, we study the relationships and dynamics of Human, Technology, and Organisation (HTO) to create knowledge that supports sustainable development and utilization of ICT.