Alongside the well-known health related challenges associated with dementia, a diagnosis can also bring significant social costs. This can include negative impacts on friendships and social networks, resulting in increased isolation and loneliness.
Dr Robertson said: “Peer support has an important role to play in helping to promote an increased sense of well-being and improved quality of life through meeting and sharing experiences with other people living with dementia or caring for somebody with dementia.
“We want to keep people socially connected, confident, and motivated to participate in their communities. This research will measure the processes and resources required to deliver support and help us determine how positive outcomes are best achieved.”
Dr Jane Robertson will lead the new research project, funded by the Life Changes Trust.
Dr Robertson and her team will look at each of the five existing projects to identify best practice and evaluate the associated outcomes. The results will help determine which elements of peer support can be replicated and deployed effectively in other areas.
The research team will conduct workshops and interviews with users of the existing projects to learn about their experiences. The £40,000 study is scheduled to report in December 2020.
It will also involve the recruitment of new volunteer community researchers who have experience of peer support, to help evaluate the projects the University team will be looking at. Kim is a volunteer community researcher who has previously worked with the University’s team alongside people with dementia and she has welcomed the new research.
She said: “I was enthused and inspired when I volunteered on previous projects with the University.
“The experience and learning I have had has been illuminating and invaluable. I’m genuinely excited about being involved in this new research which can help other people potentially benefit from the same experience I have had.”
The Life Changes Trust was established by The National Lottery Community Fund in April 2013, with a spend-out endowment of £50 million. This endowment is being used to improve the lives of young people with care experience, people living with dementia, and unpaid carers of people with dementia.