- Developed by the University of Warwick, in partnership with health and social care services, voluntary sector and carers groups
- Website provides personalised information and support for carers
- Aimed at increasing the effectiveness and sustainability of informal carers and enhancing the health and well-being of individuals with caring responsibilities
A personalised online resource specifically for carers of older people in the UK has been launched by the University of Warwick.
It has been developed by primary care specialists and researchers at Warwick Medical School, GPs, the NHS and local authority managers, with very close involvement from Age UK Warwickshire and carers group, and funded by the NHS, Warwickshire County Council and Global Initiative's 100k Social Digital Fund.
Called Care Companion www.carecompanion.org.uk, it is being launched during national Carers Week 11-17 June 2018.
The Care Companion provides personalised information and support for carers to help them more effectively meet the physical, mental health and social needs of the person who they care for, while supporting their resilience and capacity to cope.
One of the founders, Jeremy Dale Professor of Primary Care, Warwick Medical School, said: “We believe the website offers a unique resource in the UK, and will have a significant impact on maintaining the resilience of carers and the wellbeing of those that they care for, so reducing the pressure on NHS and social care services. The Care Companion acts as a gateway for carers where they can enter information about themselves and those they care for in order to receive links to a wide range of personally relevant sources of information and support.
“For example, these include links to events organised by local charities and support groups, specific information relevant to the care needs and condition of the person who they are caring for, and guidance about financial support and obtaining a blue badge.
“The content is carefully selected and developed by a team here at the Medical School to ensure that it is up to date, relevant and accurate. We believe this website will help to reduce the burden experienced by those caring for someone with a long-term condition, and this will not only be of benefit to the themselves and the people they care for, but may also help to prevent many of the crises that lead to admissions to hospital and care homes. We are undertaking research to discover how the Care Companion is achieving these goals.”
A carer is defined as someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health problem or who needs extra help as they grow older. Around 6.5 million people in the UK are carers, looking after a parent, partner, child or friend. Caring can be demanding and carers can find it challenging to take care of their own well-being whilst caring and can affect their own health. With the growing population of older people in the UK, and the pressures on the NHS and social care system, Government policy has recognised the urgent need of providing carers with more effective support.
The Care Companion was developed with the help of Warwickshire County Council and a panel of carers. One of the panel members Heather Brown, 58, from Wellesbourne, Warwickshire cares for her husband who late stage dementia because his condition has deteriorated, and has recently been diagnosed with bowel cancer. She said:”When my husband was first taken ill it was difficult to get information and support and I even had to ask my MP to intervene.
“The Care Companion website is a very useful tool as it allows you to access information that is of immediate value, and also to save and document everything in one place. This is very important when trying to obtain support for a loved one you care for. If you have everything in place it makes dealing with the numerous organisations who can provide support a lot easier. For example, the online journal can be used to record events, thoughts and changes and acts as a memory aid to help provide health professionals with accurate information.”
Already, it has been shortlisted for a prestigious award celebrating the best of innovation in healthcare around the region. The Care Companion has been shortlisted for the Supporting Self Care and Prevention of Illness Innovation Award of the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN)’s third annual Meridian Celebration of Innovation which is to be held on 13 July 2018.
Councillor Les Caborn, Warwickshire County Council Portfolio Holder for Health and Wellbeing, said: “We are delighted to be funding this innovative resource along with the NHS and Global Initiative, and hope it will be an extremely valuable resource for carers in Warwickshire. 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.”
Although much of the online information is designed for carers living within Warwickshire, it has been designed with a view to becoming available nationally. Anyone who would like further information relating to the Care Companion site or would like to join the community influencing its future development, should visit https://www.carecompanion.org.uk/faqs