Internet-Based Support Services

Consumer and Public Health Informatics and ePublishing Lab


Internet-based support services for family caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer disease and related dementias.


According to Ontario’s Strategy for Alzheimer Disease and Related Dementias (1999), there will be an 85% increase in the number of moderate and severe cases of dementia by 2010. Family caregivers of persons with Alzheimer Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) need help to cope with the demands and responsibilities of their roles as caregivers. They need services that provide information, education and support.

Because Canadians are increasingly accessing health information from the Internet, a new online service has been developed to address the needs of ADRD caregivers. The internet-based caregiver support service (ICSS), will provide caregivers access to a secured website where they will be able to communicate with a professional care provider at a time that is convenient to them. The online professional will address caregivers’ concerns about caregiving, their personal health care needs, and jointly service goals for meeting these needs will be specified. Caregivers will receive individualized information, education, support and referral services to improve their caregiving skills and knowledge. We expect that as a result of receiving this service caregivers benefit in terms of reduced levels of depressive symptoms and overall improvement in general health status. They will feel more positive about their caregiving experience. In parallel the health of the persons receiving their care will stabilize. The online service will be provided by professionals such as occupational therapists, social workers, physiotherapists, speech-language pathologists, and dietitians.

This two-year study will be conducted at COTA in collaboration with the University of Toronto, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, and Centre for Global eHealth Innovation. The project will involve 60 family caregivers who will receive the online services and participate in the evaluation of the service. We will include English speaking and Chinese speaking family caregivers in the study. Online communication will be provided in both English and Chinese, and family caregivers can choose a preferred language to receive the service. We will conduct web site usability studies and modify the web site according to user feedback.

Internet use is on the rise and increasingly being accessed for health information and advice. Culturally-approprjate and language-specific services are in high demand in diverse communities such as the Greater Toronto Area. This study will provide a model of personalized service delivery not constrained by language, culture, geography or standard hours of service for caregivers who provide long term support to their family members.

Funding Agency

Alzheimer Society of Canada


Principal Investigators

  • Chiu, T.
  • Marziali, E.


  • Colantonio, A.
  • Eysenbach, G.
  • Carswell, A.
  • Gruneir, M.

For more information about this project, contact:

Gunther Eysenbach