University of Strathclyde: Study seeks recruits to assess impact of digital support programme for dementia caregivers

Research assessing the impact of a digital support programme for dementia caregivers is seeking recruits in Scotland.

The University of Strathclyde is part of a nationwide project, funded by the NIHR, which is assessing the iSupport online skills and training programme for informal caregivers – usually family members or friends – of people living with dementia.

iSupport was developed by the World Health Organisation, and is designed to help carers of people with dementia provide good care and take care of themselves. More than 31 countries around the world are using the training and support manual to help carers, and the research aims to assess the impact and benefits.

Randomised control
The research team are using a randomised control trial to determine whether iSupport can make a difference to caregivers by reducing stress, improving mental health and knowledge of dementia, and whether it is cost effective to deliver. Whenever new services or medical procedures are introduced, they need to be assessed to ensure their efficiency and effectiveness.

The majority of people living with dementia are supported at home, receiving care from family members, relatives or friends. Caregiving can be very stressful, and many people experience poor mental health and physical illness, compared to those who are not caring for someone with dementia.

Informal carers
NHS guidelines recommend that informal caregivers 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. If shown to be effective in our research, iSupport may be one of the services available in the future to help carers in the UK.

Dr Kieren Egan, in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at Strathclyde, and the study’s principal investigator for Scotland, said: “This is a great opportunity to explore whether evidence based online innovations such as iSupport can make a difference to carers of people with dementia.

“The study is exploring whether the innovation makes a difference to outcomes that are important to carers including stress, knowledge of dementia and will also gather evidence on cost effectiveness to inform whether the platform should be used longer term in the UK setting.”

Carers can use iSupport at their own pace, choosing the parts they feel are most relevant to them.

The collaborative project to assess iSupport is being led by Bangor University and also involves University College London, Carers Trust Wales, Alzheimer Scotland, with the help of 350 dementia caregivers from across Wales, England and Scotland.