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Provider trials iSupport education program for dementia carers


A World Health Organisation-developed online training program to support carers of people with dementia is being trialed for use in Australia.

South Australian provider Resthaven has participated in a trial of the Australian iSupport for Dementia  course, which is in the process of being adapted to the Australian context by researchers at Flinders University.

Sue McKechnie

Staff and clients of Resthaven’s Community Respite Services have tested a sample of the education models, as well as the online carer support groups.

“The aim is to educate carers in understanding what dementia is, how it impacts on a person and how carers can better support both themselves the person they care for,” says Resthaven Executive Manager Community Services, Sue McKechnie.

Sixteen carers and three facilitators participated in the pilot study.

“As a partner, Resthaven staff were invited to advise on the content of the modules, then assist carers to evaluate the usefulness of the modules,” Ms McKechnie said.

“The carers who were part of the consultation process brought their individual expertise to contribute to the look and language of the modules, which were developed by the WHO, and individualised for each locality.”

Supporting family carers

Professor Lily Xiao of Flinders University was part of the WHO iSupport for Dementia expert panel. Now she is leading the project team tasked with adapting the program to the Australian context.

Professor Lily Xiao

The program aims to support family carers to improve knowledge and skills, reduce emotional stress, improve coping, self-efficacy and health, Professor Xiao told Community Care Review.

“Findings from the pilot study support the feasibility of the online program and feedback from participants has enabled the project team to improve the program design.”

The Australian iSupport for Dementia program contains 30 learning units organised in six modules, incuding being a caregiver, caring for me, providing everyday care, ‘person-centred care approach to changed behaviour’ and ‘my engagement in consumer directed care’. Each unit presents a topic and provides interactive exercises with instant feedback for carers.

Online support groups

Professor Xiao says her team consulted with a range of end-users and dementia care service providers to inform the content modification of the WHO iSupport for Dementia, as well as the online carer support groups. Experts in dementia care were invited to review and revise the iSupport, she said.

“The team has been advancing the WHO iSupport for Dementia by establishing online carer support groups and testing its feasibility,” Prof Xiao explained.

Prof Xiao said all of the 16 family carers who took part in the pilot study said they would use iSupport.

One respondent said: “As a carer you feel like you are swimming in a dark room and question yourself – this is when you need information”.

There are estimated 436,000 Australians living with dementia and that figure is predicted to rise above 589,000 people by 2028.

By 2058 it’s predicted above one million Australians living with dementia.

Government support for young carers

It comes as the federal government announced $13 million  for the national peak carers body.

Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher announced on Wednesday that Carers Australia would be able to deliver a range of programs targeting young carers with the funds, including the Young Carer Bursary Program and the Young Carer Network.

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