iSupport for Dementia Carers Study
This research study will investigate the potential benefits of ‘iSupport’, an online learning and support programme for dementia carers.
The NHS recommends 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. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that dementia carers globally should have access to affordable, proven and well-designed online tools that allow them to gain the skills, training and support they need, wherever they are.
Our research will explore how effective iSupport is in reducing distress for carers living in Britain, especially in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
We will do this research in partnership with 350 dementia carers living in Wales, England and Scotland. We are inviting carers to help us investigate whether using iSupport is better at reducing stress, and improving resilience and knowledge of dementia, compared to reading information leaflets. We will collect people’s anonymised responses through questionnaires, interviews, and discussion. Each person will be asked to respond 3 times over a 6-month period, and the first group of people will be recruited in August 2021.
Our research is led by Bangor University. They will oversee the overall running of the project and keep participants informed about study progress. Carers Trust Wales, University College London, the University of Strathclyde and Alzheimer Scotland are partners in the project. This research study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Public Health Research Programme.
Why are we doing this research?
Most people living with dementia are cared for at home, supported by a family member or friend who has limited knowledge of the condition. The role can be very stressful, and many carers experience poor mental and physical health, compared to people who are not dementia carers. COVID-19 has meant that many older people have had to self-isolate, placing increasing pressures on carers.
A digital platform has the potential to better support carers to access the support, skills and information they need, particularly when they have reduced access to physical places of support.
How will this research help dementia carers?
If we can show that iSupport helps carers, then those who provide dementia services will be able to recommend iSupport as an effective support tool, and more people will be aware of the benefits of the programme. Having an effective and accessible online service for carers could benefit both the carer and the person living with dementia. Improving care at home can delay care-home admission, which reduces care cost and has wider benefits for society.
Equally, if we find that iSupport is not helpful, or needs to be used in combination with other sources of support and information, then we can recommend adapting the platform so that it is more useful to those who need it most.