Background Intellectual disability is a life-long condition, which affects the ability to understand complex information and apply new skills. Family carers of people with intellectual disabilities provide ongoing, often 24/7, care for their loved ones and play a crucial role in supporting the health and well-being of people with intellectual disabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has made access to face-to-face support difficult for families with attempts being made by some services to offer online alternatives. This research sought to review the available evidence for use of online programmes with family carers of people with intellectual disabilities.
Methods This review followed the PRISMA guidelines, with four electronic databases (ERIC, Medline, PsycINFO & CINAHL) being searched between the years of 2011 and 2021. Predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied to all studies, which resulted in the inclusion of 19 empirical articles. Standardised data extraction measures and quality appraisal tools were then adopted.
Results Barriers to using online programmes included access to technology and technical difficulties while facilitators related to increased accessibility, reduced costs and flexibility. The majority of included papers (n=14) sought to work with family carers to support their loved ones with disabilities. Only one study sought to collaborate with carers in the design of their programme.
Conclusion Online programmes offer the potential to provide great benefit to family carers of people with intellectual disabilities. However, the majority of research has not sought to directly identify and address the needs of carers nor has it sought their views in creating these programmes. A collaborative approach to programme development offers the opportunity to tailor supportive interventions, which directly address the needs of family carers.
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