Virtually supportive: A feasibility pilot study of an online support group for dementia caregivers in a 3D virtual environment

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Abstract

Introduction: Caregiver support groups effectively reduce stress from caring for someone with dementia. These same demands can prevent participation in a group. The present feasibility study investigated a virtual online caregiver support group to bring the support group into the home. While online groups have been shown to be helpful, submissions to a message board (vs. live conversation) can feel impersonal. Method: By using avatars, participants interacted via real-time chat in a virtual environment in an 8-week support group. Result: Data indicated lower levels of perceived stress, depression and loneliness across participants. Importantly, satisfaction reports also indicate that caregivers overcame the barriers to participation, and had a strong sense of the group's presence. Discussion: This study provides the framework for an accessible and low cost online support group for a dementia caregiver. The study demonstrates the feasibility of interactive group in a virtual environment for engaging members in meaningful interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-93
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Aging Studies
Volume30
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2014

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Keywords

  • Avatar
  • Caregiver
  • Dementia
  • Internet
  • Support group
  • Virtual world
  • Web-based

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy

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