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Online support for dementia

under trial in Warracknabeal

La Trobe University researchers are looking for participants from the Warracknabeal community to help trial a new $1.7-million project into dementia support.

Researchers at the university’s John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research will be in Warracknabeal on August 2 to launch the Virtual Dementia Friendly Rural Communities (Verily Connect) project. They will be seeking trial participants for the project which is designed to improve the lives of carers of people living with dementia.

The project will trial online technologies to support carers of people living with dementia in 12 rural communities across Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.

Director and John Richards Chair of Rural Ageing and Aged Care Research at La Trobe Professor Irene Blackberry is principal investigator of the Verily Connect project. Professor Blackberry said there were an estimated 200,000 informal carers of people with dementia in rural Australia.

“Our aim is to use online technology to increase support for these carers,” Professor Blackberry said.

“To trial the new technology, we are looking for 25 participants in Warracknabeal including carers of people with dementia, volunteers and service providers,” she said.

As part of the trial, researchers will introduce three key initiatives including a volunteer-led support and mentoring hub to assist older people to use online technologies; a website and mobile app that helps carers of people living with dementia to find local services and connect with other carers; and online video-conferenced carer peer support groups.

“A dementia friendly rural community has many benefits,” Professor Blackberry said.

“If carers can be better supported, their capacity to care for people with dementia is greatly improved, reducing the need for more expensive and more disruptive residential care, or multiple acute care admissions.”

Rural Northwest Health memory support nurse Katie Ramsdale is the local liaison support to the project. Ms Ramsdale said she hoped many carers, volunteers and support services in the region would become involved in the trial.

“We’re looking forward to seeing how technology can play a role in supporting and encouraging connection among those caring for people living with dementia, particularly in regional areas where there are barriers to services and support,” Ms Ramsdale said.

Other communities taking part in the trial include Edenhope, Kyneton, Heathcote, Horsham, Robinvale, Kooweerup, and Mansfield in Victoria, Molong and Nyngan in NSW, and Victor Harbor and Riverland in SA.

VERILY is funded by the Department of Health and delivered in collaboration with Swinburne University, Newcastle University, Flinders University and Saskatchewan University Canada. VERILY will be implemented and evaluated across 2018-2019 and the project will culminate in June 2019.

To find out more about becoming a participant in Verily Connect, you are welcome to attend the community meeting in the education room at RNH’s Warracknabeal campus on August 2 at 1.30pm.


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