Online program offers hope and support for carers of family members with disabilities and chronic illnesses

  27 September 2023  NWMPHN   

A new study has found that an online program designed to support family members caring for loved ones with disability or chronic illness significantly reduces psychological distress and loneliness among participants.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal PEC Innovation, evaluated the Online Carer Wellbeing and Connection Program, developed by Carers Victoria and funded by North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN).

The program, informed by lived experience, runs online over 4 weeks and is designed to support carer wellbeing and connection. It was initially rolled out in 2020 and 2021.

A team of researchers led by Amy Coe from the University of Melbourne’s Department of General Practice and Primary Care surveyed 103 program participants and found that it had a positive impact on carer wellbeing, reducing loneliness and distress.

Participants reported heightened feelings of connection with others, and increased social support, as well as learning new techniques for self-care and stress management.

Ms Coe and her colleagues reported that the evaluation supported wider implementation and translation of the program, making it available to more of the estimated 2.65 million Australians who deliver informal care.

Typical responses from carers interviewed as part of the evaluation process included:

“I feel relieved, I’m not so different from others, and hopeful as I have found a group where I can express myself without being judged.”

“I’m grateful for the opportunity and thank you for being so helpful. It not only helped me to connect with myself more but also with others. Stable steps toward my wellbeing goals.”

NWMPHN CEO Christopher Carter.

NWMPHN CEO Christopher Carter said he was pleased by the positive findings.

“This program is just one example of NWMPHN’s commitment to identifying service gaps and funding innovative solutions to improve the wellbeing of carers in our region,” he said.

The program is available to carers living, working, or studying in Melbourne’s north and west, particularly Brimbank, Darebin, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Wyndham, Macedon Ranges, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Melton, Moonee Valley, Moorabool, Merri-bek and Yarra.

For more information and to register, visit the Carer’s Victoria website.