ISupport Swiss: supporting family caregivers

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A press conference was held to present iSupport Swiss, the training and support programme for family caregivers of people with dementia in Switzerland developed, as part of the Cantonal Strategy on Dementia, by the Institute of Public Health (IPH) and eLearning Lab of UniversitÓ della Svizzera italiana, with the contribution of the Department of Health and Social Affairs of the Canton of Ticino (DSS) and Pro Senectute, in cooperation with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) and Alzheimer Ticino.

Family members of a person with dementia often notice signs of the condition before a diagnosis is made. All too soon, they are called upon to play an important role in caring for their loved ones. iSupport Swiss aims to support family caregivers by increasing their knowledge and strengthening their caring skills, improving the quality of life of both the person with dementia and the caregiver. The iSupport programme has been developed over three years of research and collaboration with caregivers. It is now available as a smartphone and tablet application or printed manual in the three national languages, tailored to meet the needs of family caregivers.

The press conference began with State Councillor and Director of the Department of Health and Social Affairs, Raffaele De Rosa , giving a welcome address. This was followed by speeches from Dr Anna De Benedetti , President of the Cantonal Commission for the Implementation of the Cantonal Dementia Strategy, and Paolo Nodari , Director of Pro Senectute Ticino and Moesano. The conference focused on projects in Ticino that aim to support family caregivers of people with dementia. The collaboration that led to the development of iSupport Swiss was also discussed.
Following this, the co-leaders of the iSupport study, Professor Emiliano Albanese , Director of the Institute of Public Health (IPH) at USI, and Dr Maddalena Fiordelli , lecturer-researcher at IPH, explained the collaboration with the World Health Organisation and the adaptation of iSupport in Ticino, as well as its future developments.

Dr De Benedetti acknowledged the efforts of the Cantonal Dementia Strategy in improving social and healthcare services for people with dementia in Ticino. He also encouraged the expansion of these services to cope with the rising number of cases. Services and collaborations between formal and informal actors have actively included family caregivers during this epidemiological situation. iSupport is a crucial aspect of the Cantonal Dementia Strategy, designed to provide family caregivers with the knowledge and helpful suggestions for managing complex situations. This ultimately reduces stress for both the caregiver and the person with dementia.

Prof. Albanese emphasised that "the collaboration between research institutions and the region is possible, and the result is a winning synergy to create valid products, both from the scientific point of view and from that of health promotion in Ticino and Switzerland" and that "iSupport is a virtuous example of this".

"This tool is interactive and created to support family members caring for loved ones with dementia. It can guide them through the different stages of the disease and help them develop new skills and knowledge. In addition, it provides suggestions to improve their well-being." Dr Fiordelli stressed, adding that "it is important to reach out to family caregivers and provide them with evidence-based content and tools. We are happy to announce that this work will continue in the coming years thanks to Agora funding from the National Fund".

During the press conference, a video was shown featuring Claudio Sulser , an iSupport Swiss testimonial and Advisory Board member who has experience as a family caregiver. Special gratitude goes to all the iSupport Advisory Board members and family caregivers who generously contributed their time in developing and adapting the content and implementing the programme in all formats.

iSupport Swiss is free of charge and available in the App Store, Play Store and at www.isupport.swiss

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