Dementia friendly rural communities

A La Trobe University aged care research centre will receive $1.7 million in Federal Government funding to improve dementia care in rural communities.

Researchers from La Trobe’s Wodonga-based John Richards Initiative have been awarded Department of Health funding to implement their Virtual Dementia Friendly Rural Community (VERILY) project.

The VERILY project will run in rural communities in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia and will involve carers, volunteers and aged care staff recruited from each community.

The project will build on existing research projects and comprise three key initiatives:

  • Volunteer-led peer support and mentoring hubs to assist older people to use online information and communication technology
  • A website and smartphone app to help carers navigate health and aged care services and increase support and connectivity between carers and with service providers
  • Carer peer support groups that meet by video-conference

John Richards Initiative director Associate Professor Irene Blackberry said the primary aim of the project was to support those who cared for people with dementia and their rural communities.

“There are an estimated 200,000 informal carers of people with dementia in Australia, including many who live in rural communities where they have less access to support services,” Associate Professor Blackberry said.

“By creating dementia friendly rural communities we can better support carers, local volunteers and staff and potentially reduce the need for more expensive and disruptive residential care or multiple acute care admission.”

Communities taking part include Edenhope, Warracknabeal, Heathcote, Kilmore, Robinvale, Kooweerup and Mansfield in Victoria, Orange in NSW and the Riverland and Victor Harbour in SA.

“Through these regions we hope to develop a toolkit that can used by other areas to establish virtual dementia friendly rural communities.”

The Australian Government has awarded $34 million to 42 projects to support innovation in dementia care and other aged care services.