Saskatchewan

Dementia caregivers could access 24-hour support through new app created at U of S

Almost one in every four people in Canada are caregiving for a family member or friend, and the stress of looking after someone can become overwhelming.

Researchers are seeking testers for the Caregiver Self-Compassion and Support App

Nathan Reis (left) and Jenna Neiser are two University of Saskatchewan researchers working on an app to provide support to caregivers of people living with Alzheimer's and dementia. (Submitted photo/University of Saskatchewan)

Almost one in every four people in Canada are caregiving for a family member or friend, and the stress of looking after someone can become overwhelming.

But researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are working on a project to alleviate the pressures of what can sometimes be a 24-hour job, especially for caregivers of people living with Alzheimer's or dementia.

They've developed the Caregiver Self-Compassion and Support App, a mobile app for caregivers that's now in the testing phase.

The app features a series of podcasts that provide support and resources for caregivers, project lead Donna Goodridge told The Morning Edition on Friday.

Donna Goodridge, a professor in the Division of Respirology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, said she cared for her mother, who lived with dementia. She didn't realize the challenges dementia caregivers went through until she lived through it. (Submitted Photo/University of Saskatchewan)

"I think that we've begun to show that it is really helpful for people that are dealing with the day-to-day challenges of being a caregiver," said Goodridge. 

Podcasts aimed at putting caregivers at ease 

The app is based on the idea of mindful self-compassion. Nathan Reis, a PhD student in kinesiology and researcher on the project, said this idea is a "kind, understanding way of treating yourself."

The podcasts, said Reis, use this idea to walk listeners through steps to achieve self-compassion. 

"It can be ... a coping strategy or even a self-attitude," he said.

Goodridge's participation in the project comes from personal experience. She cared for her mother, who had dementia, for almost 10 years. 

"We never know when ... we might need a break from caregiving," she said. "I was not prepared at all ... for the overwhelming emotions [and] all of the challenges I faced on a day-to-day basis."

Candidates needed for app testing 

Reis said ideal candidates would be primary caregivers of people with dementia. Participants would test out the app and provide feedback afterward. 

While technology can be daunting for some, Reis said the group has attempted to make the app as user-friendly as possible. There's also support available to users from Reis and other students if needed. 

Goodridge said she hopes the app will be of use to people who can't get immediate access to in-person resources, as it's available around the clock. She added that it's been developed with Saskatchewan in mind, as all of the resources available on it are Saskatchewan-based.

Anyone interested in participating in the group's research can email Reis at nathan.reis@usask.ca.

With files from The Morning Edition

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