Website for carers launched in Warwickshire

A website specifically designed to support carers of older people in the UK has been launched today (Wednesday 13 June) by the University of Warwick.

Warwickshire County Council, along with the NHS and software developer Global Initiative, provided the funding for this project, which was 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 groups.

Called Care Companion www.carecompanion.org.uk, the website launched today, 13 June, as part of Warwickshire’s celebration of Carers Week 2018, a national event that takes place each year to celebrate the vital work carers do to support people in our communities.

The Care Companion provides information and support for carers that is personalised to each individual’s unique caring situation. This includes useful articles and forms, an address book with details of local support groups, a journal function for carers to record information, and a to do list to help manage daily tasks.

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 make sit able to adapt to the requirements of individual carers rather than taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

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 anyone who regularly provides unpaid help to someone who could not cope without them. Unfortunately many people do not realise that they are carers, while many who do realise are unaware that there is support available for them.

With approximately 11% of Warwickshire’s adult population providing some sort of unpaid care every week, and the value of this contribution estimated to be between £575 million and £1.24bn per year, it is vital that WCC ensures carers can access the support they need to retain their own independence and wellbeing.

The Care Companion was developed with the help of Warwickshire County Council and a panel of carers. Heather Brown, 58, from Wellesbourne, Warwickshire cares for her husband who has atypical vascular dementia, a severe form of the condition, and has recently been diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Heather 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.”

For further information relating to the Care Companion site or to influencing its future development, please visit www.carecompanion.org.uk/faqs