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Pathfinder project provides good signs for digital in dementia care


A pathfinder project in Leeds has laid a foundation for the use of digital technology in caring for people with dementia, according to its official evaluation.

Charity Good Things Foundation has published the evaluation following the conclusion of the project last March.

It says the Leeds Dementia Pathfinder, which was focused on supporting carers, has shown that while digital cannot address all of the problems they face, it has highlighted ways in which providing community based, face-to-face support can help them find what works for them.

NHS Digital has highlighted the results of the project, which was part of its Widening Digital Participation Programme. It involved making technology such as iPads and Echo devices available to carers at home, support groups and ‘memory cafés’.

Among the findings was that people were able to get practical benefits in the form of health information and managing medication, and wellbeing benefits around online peer support and relaxation. The social aspect of digital was particularly valued, and providing equipment and face-to-face support helped people build digital skills.

The evaluation has also provided recommendations including that digital activities should be embedded in community and carers’ groups, there is a need for digital champion training, and to make the most of community assets such as the local library service.

Positive impact

Val Hewison, chief executive of the charity Carers Leeds, said: “The Leeds Dementia Pathfinder had a really positive impact on carers’ lives.

“During the coronavirus crisis and lockdown, it was more crucial than ever to keep in contact with carers of people with dementia. We used our experience and knowledge gained through the Leeds Dementia Pathfinder work to do this. We found creative approaches to digital technology to help carers who are socially isolated and by so doing, we improved that ever important connectivity with families and communities.

“Our work with 100% Digital Leeds (a network for supporting the digitally excluded) means we are confident in encouraging and supporting carers of people with dementia to improve their quality of life, empowering and building on the wealth of strengths of carers that already exist. None of this would have been possible without the success of the Leeds Dementia Pathfinder project.”

Almost 800 people engaged with the project over 12 months, including people with dementia, carers, staff, volunteers and other stakeholders.

The Widening Digital Participation Programme involves ‘pathfinder’ partnerships between clinical commissioning groups, local authorities and community groups in areas of high deprivation and digital exclusion.

Image from iStock, Slobodan Vasic

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