Rolling out across communities in three states, thanks to the $1.7 million investment by Federal Government, the Virtual Dementia Friendly Rural Communities (Verily Connect) project will offer carers in these rural areas an online meeting place with the assistance of technology.
As well as utilising the online technology such as a newly developed smartphone app, website and videoconferencing, carers who sign up to the project will also receive personal help provided by local volunteers trained in the Verily Connect system.
Federal Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt says with over 425,000 Australians living with dementia, the work of carers is “critical”, especially in regional locations.
“Verily Connect is about supporting the many senior Australians who want to age in their local communities,” he says.
“Keeping families and communities together is critical in areas where even small shifts in population can have big impacts on local towns.
“It is vital to ensure regional centres provide as much support and as many services as possible for senior residents.”
Minister Wyatt congratulates everyone at Verily Connect and La Trobe University’s John Richard Centre for their “innovative work” on the important project, which he says has “much potential and could have national applications”.
The Verily Connect project has three sites already active in Kooweerup, Victoria; Molong, New South Wales; and Victor Harbor, South Australia.
Expansion of the project is planned for the areas of Edenhope, Warracknabeal, Kyneton, Heathcote, Horsham and Mansfield in Victoria; Nyngan in New South Wales; and the Riverland in South Australia.
Dementia Australia has welcomed the initiative for the support it is expected to provide rural, remote and regional carers of someone living with dementia.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Maree McCabe says the announcement for increased support for these carers is “timely” as it coincides with National Carers Week.
“One of the things about rural areas is that people are limited in terms of the range of services they have access to - their choice is limited by their location and it is often a struggle to get healthcare professionals into these areas,” she explains.
“We also know that social isolation can cause people to be depressed and even develop dementia so we do want to make sure people are well supported in their communities and have access to supports and social networks.
“We cannot have a one size fits all approach - we need to provide services that cater to the individual and their needs [so] we think it’s fantastic that this new initiative is being introduced.
“Anything we can do to support carers, particularly in regional areas is a fantastic thing.”
She adds that anyone caring for someone living with dementia can always access information and support via the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
Carers wanting to participate in the Verily Connect project can find out more online.