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Online Research with Informal Caregivers: Opportunities and Challenges

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In this article we discuss the opportunities and challenges of using the Internet as part of an emergent methodology in qualitative research. Utilising a deliberative process of democratic enquiry, an online forum was used to identify important capabilities for the health of informal caregivers for older people in New Zealand. Recognising the difficulties associated with recruiting and interviewing informal caregivers, the study was advertised and conducted via the Internet. Over four months, 60 informal caregivers, from varied backgrounds, contributed to an online forum created specifically for the research. The asynchronous, anonymous format facilitated participants’ personal accounts of caregiving, which highlighted the tensions and complexity of caregivers’ lives. This resulted in a key finding that emotions, particularly attachment, play a significant role in the day-to-day experience of informal eldercare provision. Overall, we found that Internet-mediated research offers an innovative option for qualitative data collection, which has potential for including hard-to-reach populations and enabling insightful, contextual data collection.
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Keywords: asynchronous online forum; capability approach; deliberative research; e-participation; informal eldercare

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Publication date: July 3, 2015

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