In March 2020, Lab4Living, in collaboration with allied heath professionals from Alzheimer Scotland, launched Connecting People, Connecting Support, an online resource to support people with dementia and their families. The website hosts a range of interactive research-informed resources that promote quality of life.
The website was designed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented people with dementia accessing day centres and resources in person. It was felt that the opportunity for individuals to interact and engage in meaningful activity at home was more important than ever.
The online recourse grew over time with two new topics being added every week in response to feedback, what was currently happening regarding COVID-19 and even the weather. Topics released on a Tuesday focused on helping individuals to manage the practical challenges that living with dementia brings and the Friday topics shared creative and expressive activities.
Lab4Living Research Assistant and Designer, Helen Fisher, said “The strength of the resource can be found in its contributors. Not only are the resources based on over 10 years of research by Professor Claire Craig and Alzheimer Scotland, but we also had 10 specialist contributors, ranging from poets to dietitians to artists.”
Since its launch, the website has received over 5000 visitors and 35,000 page views.
One user commented, “I sat down and I must have been at it for 2 hours… I actually enjoyed doing it, I actually liked quite a lot of it. You’ve got to set yourself time to do it. Having something like this is really good.”
Following a webinar about the website in which 268 people attended, a healthcare professional provided the following feedback: “I think the scope of the piece of work is vast. I work in a specialist dementia team and can see so many ways we can use the resource in the future.” An occupational therapist also added: “I have found the resource to be incredibly helpful; as well as signposting people living with dementia and their family to the website, I have used some of the materials with patients. This includes the drinking challenge template, which we used within our team to support an individual to increase her fluid intake.”
It was also noted by a regular website visitor that “Carers don’t have the energy to search for things online, so having this all in one place is great. People feel like they’ve won the lottery when they see the website!”
Not only has positive feedback been received from people with dementia, carers, family members and professionals, the Royal College of Occupational Therapists have endorsed the website, recommending it as a targeted digital occupational therapy tool (https://www.rcot.co.uk/practice-resources/occupational-therapy-topics/digital-first-occupational-therapy).