D-Care project: research is being conducted for caregivers of people living with dementia

In Europe an increase in diseases linked to ageing, such as dementia, has been registered throughout the last 50 years, and it is estimated that the number will increase further.

The cognitive, behavioural and psychosocial difficulties faced by people affected by dementia have a strong impact on them, however this poses a challenge also on those supporting them, such as family and friends. The ‘carers’ face in turn physical and mental health problems, which then affect other spheres of professional and private life of the caregivers.

In order to face these challenges, and improve the lives of people living with dementia, their families and carers, as well as to improve the quality of care for people with dementia in hospitals and at the end of life, more knowledge and tools are needed. Such a need will be covered by the D-Care project, through the creation of an educational program in the form of blended learning and training for all kinds of carers of people suffering from dementia.

The D-Care project is expected to bring positive and long–lasting effects on the participants, such as improving knowledge on dementia and its consequences, and promoting a more active participation in society, social inclusion and non-discrimination, as well as lifelong learning.

The main sustainable effects of the project will include: increased focus on the benefits of innovative dementia care for people living with dementia which includes improved health and well-being and sustainable improvement in support and respite given to caregivers.

In the framework of the D-Care project, research is being conducted at the same time in all partners’ countries: Greece, Italy, Spain, UK, and Denmark. This research aims to identify educational needs of professional and non-professional caregivers of people living with dementia, and to collect information about the trainers of health professionals’ experience on online training.

For the purposes of the research, 3 different questionnaires have been created:
– Questionnaire for professional caregivers of people living with dementia, for example nurses, social workers, doctors, psychologists, occupational therapists, etc.
– Questionnaire for non-professional caregivers of people living with dementia, for example family members, friends, volunteers, etc.
– Questionnaire for trainers of health professionals, in on-line training programs, focusing to caregivers of people living with dementia.
The conclusions of the research are summarized as follows:

Despite great advances in the field of dementia, at present there is still no medication that can change the course of the illness and no cure for most types of dementia as it is reported by Spain and Greece. However, some medications have been found to reduce some symptoms and there are pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments and therapies for the effects of the disease.

In Denmark, in addition to a good health care service, there is a large number of different voluntary associations, including relatives and dementia interest organizations and foundations consisting of a corps of voluntary dog owners and their dogs who visit vulnerable people, including people with dementia. Also in Italy, despite some critical factors regarding the current legislation and lack of standardization of regulations due to a regional autonomy in the field of public health, different support services including the volunteer ones and other initiatives have been activated and foreseen.

It is also reported that some key components or basic design principles in the creation of an appropriate living environment for dementia patients are important, such as home atmosphere, personalization and family feel, privacy and personal control, creation of a sense of security and safety, etc. Social interaction and inclusion of elderly people is another of the key factors for keeping people intellectually active and well integrated, together with prevention of senile dementia.

UK reported that many elderlies questioned feel reluctant to study using online training, e-learning, while, running workshops mixed with e-learning (known as blended learning) is more acceptable since learners respond more, with more enthusiasm, and gain more skills.

Regarding the next steps of the project, an online meeting will be held on 7 and 8 April 2020 in order to analyze the results of IO1 and coordinate the preparation of training for trainers and joint staff training for IO2.

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More information:

Among the initiatives taken by the World Health organization (WHO) we can refer to:
– internationally, the Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-2025 which aims to improve the lives of people with dementia, their carers and families, while decreasing the impact of dementia on communities and countries;
– at the European level, the European Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020 which calls for activities to support mental health among older people, including those who suffer from dementia.

With the D-Care project we wish to support the research and increase the skills in this sector, as the OECD also highlights the need of further efforts to improve care co-ordination to help patients and their families navigate complex health and social systems, to develop residential care models adapted to the needs of people with dementia, and to improve the quality of care in hospitals.