Woman supporting an elderly relative, in conversation

Online dementia carer support resources to be assessed for UK use

A new study is set to assess an online training and support resource, developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), for family and friends supporting people living with dementia, investigating whether it is effective for use in the UK.

Funded by NIHR’s Public Health Research Programme, the research study will be conducted by Bangor University, University College London and the University of Strathclyde, with support from a wide range of UK and international organisations, as well as 365 dementia carers from across Wales, England and Scotland.

The resource in question – iSupport – is designed to allow dementia carers to provide the best possible care, not just to the person with dementia they are looking after but also to themselves. It is designed to be used at a carer’s own pace, with the ability to access any relevant parts of the resource to them from their place of choosing using a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Professor Gill Windle, who is leading the international research team from School of Health Sciences, Bangor University, explained: “Whenever new services or medical procedures are introduced, they need to be assessed to ensure their efficiency and effectiveness.

“NHS guidelines recommend that informal carers of people living with dementia such as family and friends should be offered training to help them develop care skills and manage their own physical and mental health.

“We believe that iSupport will provide a good solution.

“Before any introduction, we need to conduct a full evaluation of the costs and benefits, considering how effective the online course is in reducing distress, and what aspect of the course carers like.”

The majority of people living with dementia are supported by and receive care from family members, with most being cared for at home.

An often-stressful role, with many of these ‘informal carers’ experiencing mental and physical illness as a consequence, it’s particularly important that resources and support is in place to assist not just the person with dementia, but also those around them taking care of the person.

Many of these carers have limited specialist knowledge of dementia and dementia care, as well as ways of best managing their own stress as carers. Many of the community support services for people living with dementia have also had to be curtailed as a result of Covid-19 too, placing increased pressure on ‘informal carers’ to fill the void.

Faaiza Bashir, Policy Research and Engagement Manager for Carers Trust Wales, one of the organisations supporting the research, added: “Unpaid carers provide vital practical and emotional support to thousands of people across Wales every single day.

“Without unpaid carers, the health and social care system would be unsustainable and even more people would be left unable to cope.

“Carers Trust Wales are delighted to collaborate with Bangor University to ensure that carers of people with dementia across the UK can gain skills and confidence as carers through this project and access to knowledge and tools to help them maintain their own health and well-being.”

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