- New online support platform, developed by Warwick Medical School, at the University of Warwick, launching on 26 April for people with caring responsibilities in Coventry and Warwickshire
- Local carer praises Care Companion for helping him through the ‘bubble of confusion’ after taking on caring responsibilities
- The Care Companion provides a unique, personalised experience for carers seeking help, advice and support – or just looking for ideas to take time out
- People who are actively involved in caring for a loved one, with personal experience of the highs and lows that can occur, influenced all aspects of the Care Companion
- Carers can register for the Care Companion at: www.carecompanion.org.uk
Carers are being given a new helping hand to guide them to the vital information they need on looking after a friend or relative, and to help them cope with the day to day challenges that may occur.
The Care Companion, a new online support tool developed by Warwick Medical School, at the University of Warwick, to support people with caring responsibilities, will be launched on 26 April at Stratford Hospital and rolled out across Warwickshire and Coventry. The event will be attended by The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Member of Parliament for Kenilworth and Southam, and Matt Western MP, Member of Parliament for Warwick and Leamington.
Providing vital information in an accessible format personalised to each carer’s responsibilities, it is free to use for residents of Coventry and Warwickshire and is supported by Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council, the NHS, and local support agencies and charities.
Local carer Dave Austin from Leamington Spa was involved in the pilot of the platform and has praised it for helping him through the ‘bubble of confusion’ after taking on caring responsibilities.
Around 11% of adults in Warwickshire have caring responsibilities for a family member, friend or neighbour. This can range from helping with day to day activities like washing and dressing, to coordinating medical appointments and arranging social activities. Often, they are caring for someone with long term conditions such as dementia or stroke, which are unlikely to improve over time.
Having caring responsibilities can be stressful and confusing. Research has shown that those being cared for see the care system as fragmented, often having to speak to a number of different services and taking on the burden of ‘joining the dots’ in their care. They can spend a great deal of time tracking down information in print and online; however this information can be poorly signposted or presented in an inaccessible fashion, and may not be directly relevant to the person who they are caring for. This often means that they miss out on vital information, or on opportunities to improve their care which might have a significant impact on their quality of life and that of the person who they care for. They may be missing out on essential benefits that they are entitled to.
The Care Companion helps with the emotional, social, day-to-day organisational and other demands of caring. It has been designed with people who care for older people in mind, with funding from Coventry and Rugby CCG, South Warwickshire CCG and Warwickshire County Council. Software development company Global Initiative is the technology partner for Care Companion and contributed funding through their Initiative Fund.
The platform ensures that carers have access to information, personalised to their individual circumstances, at the time that is needed. It helps them to stay on top of the process of coordinating appointments, vital contacts and other key data for the person who they care for, including keeping a diary of significant events that have affected them. This can all help ensure that the person being cared for gains optimal support from NHS and social care services, and that the carer remains resilient and confident in their caring role.
Anyone with caring responsibilities in Coventry and Warwickshire can register for the Care Companion at: www.carecompanion.org.uk
By registering and answering a small number of questions about themselves and the person that they care for, the Care Companion tailors the resources it provides to the carer, ensuring that they have the most relevant information they need a click away. The Care Companion also provides users with regular notifications; for example, to recommend users to look at new resources that may be relevant to their needs, or to consider seeking benefits to which they may be entitled. It is designed particularly with older people in mind, particularly those who may be less familiar with technology and apps.
Dave Austin is a member of the Carers’ Group that helped develop the platform and has cared for his wife Margaret, who has vascular dementia, since 2017.
He said: “When you are first told that a relative has dementia you are in a bubble of confusion, you don’t know where to go to find information. The beauty of Care Companion is that it is a reliable, trusted source of information, approved by doctors and vetted by carers.
“Things like what you can claim in terms of financial support become very important, as does meeting with other carers at things like dementia cafes. Those people can help you through the process because they have experienced the same issues that you have. Talking to other carers was a relief and had a real ‘feelgood factor’.”
Professor Jeremy Dale from Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, who has led the research that underpins the Care Companion, said: “Over a three year period, we have undertaken research into the needs of carers in Coventry and Warwickshire, and worked closely with carers on the development of the Care Companion. The Care Companion is a unique resource which our research suggests will be of considerable value to the huge numbers of people that have caring responsibilities. By helping carers to remain resilient and cope more effectively, it will improve the quality of lives of all the people that they care for – importantly, this will also help lessen the burden on overstretched NHS and social care services.”
Cllr Les Caborn, Warwickshire County Council's portfolio holder for Health and Social Care said: "With approximately 11% of Warwickshire’s adult population providing some sort of unpaid care every week, it is vital that carers can access the support they need to retain their own independence and wellbeing. Anything we can do to help make things a bit simpler for carers to support the people they are looking after is fantastic and the personalised nature of Care Companion makes it able to adapt to the requirements of individual carers rather than taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”
25 April 2019
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