Care Companion demonstrates vital role of online resources in carers’ wellbeing during lockdown

· Online tool for carers has been updated specifically to provide relevant information and to support wellbeing during coronavirus lockdown

· Online resources fulfil a vital role for carers during the isolation of lockdown, say the University of Warwick team that developed Care Companion

· Carers Week takes place between 8 – 14 June with the theme ‘Making Caring Visible’

· Anyone with caring responsibilities in Coventry and Warwickshire can register for Care Companion at: www.carecompanion.org.uk

The role that online resources have played in supporting the wellbeing of unpaid carers and keeping them connected during the COVID-19 lockdown is being highlighted this week by the University of Warwick team behind Care Companion, an online tool that has been supporting over 300 carers in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Having access to information and resources online has been a lifeline for carers during the coronavirus pandemic, as they face balancing their responsibilities caring for a loved one while also avoiding their exposure to the virus. During Carers Week (8 – 14 June), a team led by the University of Warwick is raising awareness of Care Companion, which has been enhanced to provide support specifically during the lockdown period.

Carers have faced particular challenges during lockdown, with many providing care for a shielded vulnerable individual, scrupulously following guidelines on social distancing while also trying to maintain their own physical and mental health. Many of the services that carers and those they cared for relied upon have been closed due to the lockdown and their experience can be very isolating.

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 important information regarding the person 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.

Over the last three months, the team have updated Care Companion with new resources specifically to help carers during the COVID-19 outbreak, including advice on contacting local neighbourhood groups, guidance on how to use digital technology safely, tips from Care Companion users on looking after their wellbeing and the person they care for, as well as ensuring users are directed to the latest advice and information from the NHS, government, local councils and charities that is relevant to them.

Anyone with caring responsibilities in Coventry and Warwickshire can register for the Care Companion at: www.carecompanion.org.uk

Carers Week is a national event that takes place each year to celebrate the work carers do to support people in our communities, and to raise awareness of the support that is available. The national theme for 2020 is ‘Making Caring Visible’, and the team behind Care Companion have highlighted stories of those whose lives during lockdown have benefitted from using Care Companion.

Jenny Lee from Canley in Coventry cares for her sister, who has diabetes, failing eyesight and dementia.

She said: “My memory has had to hold two sets of memories, both my sister’s and mine. Resilience levels for us both has been tested during the coronavirus, with shielding alone at home and feeling lonely. We have really missed our regular outings together, meals out, trips to garden centres and visits to mutual friends.

“The free, online Care Companion website I have found really useful in supporting us both, from the up-to-date section on coronavirus, the diary system and reminders about shopping delivery and prescription ordering, and the mood monitor.

“I’m able to turn to Care Companion at any time of the day or night, and it has certainly helped me to keep my sense of purpose. When, despite the pressures of the caring role in these difficult times, I have been supported in so many different ways.”

Gillian Grason Smith chairs the panel of experienced carers closely involved in overseeing the design and content of Care Companion. She said: “At a time when recognised issues of isolation and loneliness are intensified, members of the panel feel confident that, by using Care Companion, carers will be able to find reliable information that will show they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings and that support is available. Finding that information on Care Companion is a simple, straightforward process and through its unique method of personalisation, means it is always appropriate.”

Professor Jeremy Dale from Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, who has led the research that underpins the Care Companion, said: “Care Companion has been designed to provide personalised support to carers, to help them make informed decisions and exercise choice and control about care and support. It also has resources aimed at helping the carer to remain physically and mentally well, and to help them access the right services, at the right time. We strongly support the theme of Carers Week, ‘Making Caring Visible’, and through Care Companion seek to recognise, value and empower carers. As a resource that is freely available to all residents in Coventry and Warwickshire, we invite all carers in our area to register with and start using Care Companion.”

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