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 email@example.com or by calling 5444 7676.