Con­nect­ing car­ers

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

La Trobe Univer­sity is call­ing for Hor­sham par­tic­i­pants to take part in a na­tional project aim­ing to in­crease sup­port for car­ers of peo­ple liv­ing with me­mory loss and de­men­tia.

The univer­sity is invit­ing peo­ple in­clud­ing car­ers, vol­un­teers and or­gan­i­sa­tions to be part of the ma­jor on­line project – the first of its kind in Aus­tralia.

The Vir­tual De­men­tia Friendly Ru­ral Com­mu­ni­ties – Ver­ily Con­nect – project in­volves video con­fer­enc­ing, a spe­cially de­signed web­site and smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tion aimed to con­nect and in­crease sup­port for car­ers across 12 ru­ral lo­ca­tions in Vic­to­ria, South Aus­tralia and New South Wales.

Ver­ily Con­nect started in Hor­sham on Mon­day.

Se­nior Aus­tralians and Aged Care Min­is­ter Ken Wy­att said Ver­ily Con­nect was made pos­si­ble through al­most $1.7-mil­lion in fed­eral fund­ing.

“With more than 425,000 Aus­tralians liv­ing with de­men­tia, the work of car­ers is crit­i­cal, es­pe­cially in re­gional ar­eas,” he said.

“Ver­ily Con­nect is set to re­duce the chal­lenges of dis­tance and iso­la­tion, link­ing car­ers and help­ing them con­tinue to de­liver sup­port to some of our most vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens.”

La Trobe’s John Richards’ Cen­tre for Ru­ral Age­ing re­search di­rec­tor and prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor, pro­fes­sor Irene Black­berry, said there was a need for car­ers to have sup­port and be con­nected, es­pe­cially when liv­ing in iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties.

“De­men­tia Aus­tralia es­ti­mates there are 291,163 Aus­tralians in­volved in pro­vid­ing un­paid, in­for­mal care for peo­ple liv­ing with de­men­tia,” she said.

“Car­ing is a vi­tal role that can be both joy­ful and de­mand­ing. We know that when car­ers are well sup­ported, they are more able to man­age any stresses aris­ing from their car­ing role.”

Pro­fes­sor Black­berry said the Ver­ily Con­nect project in­cor­po­rated tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate an on­line net­work of car­ers, based on de­men­tia-friendly com­mu­nity prin­ci­ples.

“Peo­ple who live in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties have less ac­cess to sup­port ser­vices,” she said.

“By cre­at­ing a vir­tual de­men­tia-friendly ru­ral com­mu­nity, we can elim­i­nate geo­graph­i­cal iso­la­tion and po­ten­tially re­duce the need for ex­pen­sive and dis­rup­tive res­i­den­tial care or mul­ti­ple acute-care ad­mis­sions for peo­ple liv­ing with de­men­tia.”

Three key in­no­va­tions sub­ject to trial are: On­line peer-sup­port groups for car­ers who meet by video-con­fer­ence; ac­cess to sup­port and in­for­ma­tion for car­ers via a pur­pose-built web­site and smart­phone app; and face-to-face help for car­ers us­ing on­line tech­nol­ogy, pro­vided by vol­un­teers who have re­ceived Ver­ily Con­nect train­ing.

More in­for­ma­tion is avail­able on­line at ver­i­ly­con­nect.org.au. Peo­ple can get in­volved through ver­i­ly­con­nect@la­trobe.edu.au or by call­ing 5444 7676.

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