To mark Dementia Action Week 2020 (21-27 September), La Trobe University has released the findings of its Virtual Dementia Friendly Rural Communities (Verily Connect) project, which uses technology to make it more convenient for rural carers to access the support and advice they need.
The virtual project – which received $1.7 million in Federal Government funding in 2017 – includes video conferencing, a specially designed website and smartphone app, and help provided by local volunteers in using technology.
Director of La Trobe’s John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research, Professor Irene Blackberry, who led the work, said data collected from 72 surveys and 82 interviews across 12 communities in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia showed carers have a strong need for social support and may experience a heavy burden in caring for a person living with dementia.
“Carers are very busy, often with multiple caring roles in addition to other life roles such as worker, friend and community member. For some, it is exhausting, overwhelming, and isolating,” Professor Blackberry said.
“Verily Connect is a virtual platform enabling local volunteers, health services and rural community members to join with carers in an online and supportive community.”
“Carers who joined the Verily Connect app and peer support video conference meetings reported 37 per cent improvement in their social support.”
The researchers aim to roll out Verily Connect nationally.
The full report and newly published Verily Toolkit can be accessed on the Verily Connect website. The John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research will present their findings as part of a free webinar on Thursday 23 September 2020.
La Trobe University led the project in collaboration with Swinburne University, Flinders University, University of Newcastle, and University of Saskatchewan (Canada).
The project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the Dementia and Aged Care Services (DACS) funding round.
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