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The Alzheimer’s Society are asking carers to get involved in a research trial looking at whether online cognitive behavioural therapy could help tackle carer stress and anxiety

If you’re caring for someone with dementia, you’ll probably take one look at the above headline and think, ‘tell me something I didn’t know!’ Because for many dementia carers, the reality is that they will feel stressed, anxious and depressed regularly, and many are struggling in silence.

A report by the Alzheimer’s Society found 80 per cent of carers find it difficult to talk about the emotional impact of caring, and nearly 40 per cent of carers provide round-the-clock care. Is it any wonder that so many feel stressed?

It’s why the Alzheimer’s Society is partnering with Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust to launch Caring For Me And You, a research trial that will test whether tailored online cognitive behavioural therapy and support for carers will help them cope with the pressure.

The research team are currently looking for carers of people with dementia who have felt emotional pressures of caring and have access to computer, to help test the effectiveness of online therapy packages.

With 700,000 people in the UK caring for someone with dementia – and mostly unpaid and saving the UK economy £11.6 billion per year – it’s vital that a way can be find to help deal with the stress and anxiety of caring.

Because the truth is, caring for a person with dementia is very different to caring for someone with another condition or disability. This is because dementia is a very complex, unpredictable and progressive disease. Many carers (60 per cent in the survey) admit to feeling guilty if they try and find support for their stress, because they feel like they’re putting their needs before the person with dementia. And even when they do try to get help, it’s held up by a lack of services or funding.

Dr Doug Brown, director of Research & Development at the Alzheimer’s Society, said:

‘In this country, unpaid dementia carers prop up our health and social care system. This silent army of husbands, wives, sons and daughters spend 1.3 billion hours a year providing care. This can take an enormous toll on their emotional health and wellbeing.

‘Carers tell us that even when they have taken that difficult first step and gone to see their GP, accessing any sort of face-to-face therapy presents a whole new challenge – from finding the time to attend and getting care cover to the extremely long waiting times facing many for these treatments. Being able to log on at home to immediately access tried and tested support and coping strategies has the potential to transform the lives of tens of thousands of carers.’

Cognitive behavioural therapy teaches people coping strategies for stress, anxiety and depression, by encouraging them to work through their thoughts, feelings and approaches to particular situations. It is increasingly being subscribed on the NHS, but until now, most online CBT programmes were not tailored to people whose stress was as a result of caring.