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Online Tools Reduce Isolation For Carers

Caring for a family member or for a friend can be very isolating at times. Although never a replacement for face to face contact, there are several ways to keep in touch online.


Chill4Us Carers Exploring Tablets for Caring

Chill4Us Carers Exploring Tablets for Caring (Photo: Paul Webster)

Carers Week is a great annual opportunity to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges carers face and to recognise the contribution carers make to families and communities. Hopefully some of the on-line resources we've highlighted in this article will assist as part of the overall support carers can provide and will ensure effective caring takes place throughout the whole year.

Our visits to organisations as part of the Connecting Care project has put us in touch with a number of groups and organisations who play an vital role either in a network or in the direct support of unpaid family carers. The picture here is of a session we ran with  Chill4Us Carers in Norwich earlier in 2015 to help members in their network of informal carers discover how touchscreen technology could help them stay connected to friends and family.    

This article is a round-up of the websites and apps that we have mentioned when working with these groups and which might help you if you are caring for someone close to you. 

Also see our  page on 'Online Networks That Bring People Together' which has links to further resources and websites that may be useful too. The links listed here are to the generic carers support networks, there are many other support communities and apps that exist for specific medical conditions. Some of these apps can be found on the My Health Apps website and the NHS Choices App Store.

UPDATED - June 2015 - to include more useful tools and the Tinder Foundation Specialist Carers Network.
  

Information about support for carers in a digital age

Carer+

The EU funded  Carer+ project aims to:

  • Equip EU care workers with the required set of digital competences to support older people (+65) in their use of ICTs and AAL (Ambient Assisted Living) technologies that will enhance their professional status and impact positively on the quality of life, autonomy and safety of those in their care;
  • Equip care workers with a set of digital competences that will allow them to be more active in society, enhancing and diversifying their opportunities for EU mobility, employability (access to better jobs) and personal and professional development.

The website contains specific sections of resources about digital support for Carers, for Providers of Learning for Carers, for Researchers in Digital Care and for Policy Makers in Digital Inclusion and Care, There are many links to carer toolkits and background research, but also a particularly useful list of lists showing websites and apps for carers.

Specialist Carers' Network - Tinder Foundation

Research by the Tinder Foundation has found that nearly 9 in 10 carers find it difficult to leave their home because of their caring role, but 42% of carers who are online say that the internet helps to reduce their feelings of isolationThis network run by Tinder Foundation offers specialist help and support that carers need to take advantage of the benefits the online world can offer.

There is a wide selection of resources  available on the UK Online Centres website with a full report into digital support for carers due out in Summer 2015. 


Web-based Networks and Forums

Babble - Carers Trust

Babble has been created by  Carers Trust as an online space where those aged under 18 who are caring for a family member or friend can chat, share their experiences and access information and advice. The site aims to bring together young carers from across the UK in an online space which is safe, fun and supportive.

The Carers Trust website has other online places to share your concernsMatter is the network for carers aged 16 to 25 and carers Space for those aged over 25. There is also a general forum and a Live Chat room. 

Chill4Us Carers

This  website and discussion forum was established in 2005 as a social network and community for unpaid family carers and ex-carers. It is about, information, humour, fantasy and fun, chat with carers and finding help when the caring ends. It is a peer support group offering carer resources and members have experience of the isolation felt by family carers, the struggle with finding grants, money and the general difficulty of finding help for carers. There is information and advice for carers in the message boards, the website, twitter feeds and a free daily online newspaper.

In addition to the forum  Chill4Us Carers also runs the very successful Computers4Carers service which has distributed over 400 refurbished computers, laptops and now new tablets to unpaid carers across Norfolk. Carers can often be very isolated at home, so a computer enabling reconnection to friends and family is very welcome and valued by the carers who have received them.  

Discover Skills For Carers

Whether you’re looking to learn more about carers and their needs, or explore how technologies can be used to deliver services more effectively, Discover Skills For Carers can help tailor an approach to suit your individual requirements. Registration is free and gives you access to a growing resource bank of skills and digital inclusion related e-learning materials, case studies and on-line carers support community. Discover is helping informal carers to use computers and the internet to embed digital technology in their day-to-day lives.

LD Carers Direct

The Learning Disability Carers Group works with hard to reach Learning Disability carers across the UK. Through their online LD Community on Facebook and Twitter they help LD carers who lack the confidence, time, finances or transport, to be heard and supported without having to attend meetings. They provide specific information and advice service and help LD Carers with new ways of participating in the improvement, design and delivery of services. The services aim to also empower LD carers through training, self development, community leadership and digital inclusion opportunities.


Phone or Tablet based Apps

Jointly

CarersUK, the national membership charity for carers in the UK, have developed the Jointly app as a tool to make caring for someone a little easier. This iOS and Android app costs £2.99 to set up a 'circle of care' where you can organise the communication and coordination between those who share the care. The app includes facilities to record medications, appointments, tasks and contacts all designed to reduce the stress often felt when arranging care by family members and friends..

The CarersUK website also has an online discussion forum where registered users can chat about topics of interest or share their concerns.

Action for Young Carers

Action for Young Carers are a Nottingham based charity providing support for carers aged between 5 and 18 years old. In 2014 they launched their free app which provides much needed information and support services both for unidentified young carers as well as those already accessing the AYC services. The app can be used to submit self assessments and to receive news about meet-ups. It is available for iOS devices here and for Android devices here.

Carers Federation

The Carers Federation is the parent charity of AYC providing support for carers of all ages and the people they look after across the UK. They also have an app which is on the iOS app store here and on Google Play for Android devices here. The app can be used to search for Support Groups, by postcode and keyword. It lists information containing details of local support groups, meeting times, a map to the venue and useful contacts.

  

If you know of any apps or websites that can be used by carers that we've missed please tell us in the comments below.

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