University of Derby leads UK project to improve the lives of carers for people with Alzheimer’s disease

9 June 2020

The University of Derby is the only UK university to be part of a new three-year project aimed at improving the daily life of informal caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Co-Care project, co-funded by the European Commission under the Erasmus + Knowledge alliance programme, brings together universities, ICT professionals, the health and social care sector and users of ICT-based Alzheimer care solutions. The partnership aims to provide practical insight to stimulate user-led software design for the sector.

There are currently around 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, a figure projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040, and it is reported that the number of people who will provide care at home for a loved one with dementia is set to rise by almost one million by 2035.

Researchers at the University of Derby have partnered with Alzheimer’s Society and Derby-based e-learning development agency, Marked Improvement, to work with organisations from across Europe to advance the design of ICT solutions created for carers to improve the quality of the care they provide, give them a chance to network and help them to stay healthy.

Throughout its three-year duration, Co-Care will develop three major outputs. The first is to develop a training course for health, ICT and social studies students that will result in products better suited to the needs of consumers. A toolkit for informal carers will also be created to equip them with the knowledge to choose ICT-based solutions and competences to connect with peers and to stay healthier. The project will also facilitate an online community of practice which will give support to all relevant stakeholders involved and follow the development of the training course and toolkit.

Dr Jamie Bird, Senior Lecturer in Health and Social Care Research at the University of Derby, is part of a team of researchers at Derby working on the project. He said: “This project aims to tackle the challenges in the sector by ensuring technology is designed in a way that specifically addresses the carer or end user’s needs, in a way that helps them embrace the technology.

“The University of Derby is pleased to be part of this multi-country project and to have played an important role from the beginning in helping to develop the ideas. We will be contributing to all elements of the project, with a particular focus on the identification of existing practice, the design and delivery of training and tool-kits, and the evaluation of the project.”

Charles Shields, a Director of Marked Improvement E-learning Ltd added: “We were delighted to be invited to join this project given the importance of supporting informal care-givers who can often feel as if they are on their own. We’re contributing our digital expertise across a range of project activities and very much look forward to seeing the impact of the project outputs. It’s also particularly satisfying to be doing this in collaboration with diverse partner organisations both in and beyond the UK.”

Colin Capper, Head of Research Development and Evaluation at Alzheimer’s Society, which collaborated on the study, said: “At a time when people affected by dementia are experiencing increasing isolation, the use of technology has never been more important. The reality is that people with dementia and their carers are bearing the brunt of the pandemic – they have been the worst hit in terms of deaths and thousands more are struggling to cope. In March and April alone, we received over 7,500 calls to our Dementia Connect Support Line, so it’s clear that people affected by dementia are in desperate need of support.  

“We are delighted to be partners in this collaboration and we will continue to ensure that it is shaped by the insights and experiences of people living with dementia and their carers. This is the only way to ensure healthcare technology solutions tackle the needs of those caring for people with dementia effectively.”

For all the latest project news visit the Co-Care website. For more information about our Health and Social Care research, go to our Health and Social Care Research Centre web pages.