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The INCLUDE project

People with dementia say that personal contact is key to their well-being, while many family members providing unpaid care are isolated and feel lonely. People with dementia and the family members who care for them are especially vulnerable to the impact of the physical distancing measures needed to reduce the risk of developing coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms. These measures can be frightening and can damage well-being and relationships, while reducing accessibility of care services and support. With social restrictions continuing for an extended period, people affected by dementia risk being ‘left behind’ as the rest of the population adapts. Our approach to delivering high-quality care and support for people affected by dementia must change to take account of this.

In the INCLUDE study we aim to understand the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic and the resulting restrictions on people with dementia and their carers, and to develop a toolkit to address the negative and potentially harmful effects of this situation. This will encompass resources for people with dementia and carers, and guidance for health and social care professionals and volunteers working with people affected by dementia

We will invite people with dementia and carers participating in the ongoing ‘Improving the experience of Dementia and Enhancing Active Life’ (IDEAL) programme to take part in INCLUDE. IDEAL has been following a large group of people with dementia and carers over time to understand what makes it possible for people to ‘live well’ with the condition. The findings highlight the importance of the very social and psychological resources that are most likely to have been affected by the COVID-19 epidemic.

The INCLUDE study will add a new data collection module to the IDEAL programme. This will be specifically designed to examine the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic and resulting restrictions. Participants will complete questionnaires and respond to open-ended questions in a structured interview, and a sub-set will additionally engage in a more conversational semi-structured interview about their experiences. People with dementia and carers will be involved in developing the interview schedules. We expect 300 people with dementia and 300 carers to complete the structured interview, with up to 50 people with dementia and 50 carers completing the semi-structured interview.

The information that INCLUDE participants provide will enable us to understand how COVID-19 has affected people with dementia and carers as a whole and how the impact differs for particular sub-groups, for example based on age, type of dementia, or socioeconomic status.  Because we already have a good deal of information about IDEAL participants we will be able to link their responses with information they provided previously. This will allow us to identify the impact of COVID-19 on trajectories of symptoms and well-being; for example, we can pinpoint where changes over time in specific symptoms are greater than expected. We will also explore the ways in which changes for the person with dementia affect the carer and vice versa.

Working together with people with dementia and carers, we will use the evidence gained to develop the Living Well Alongside Coronavirus (LILAC) toolkit, a set of resources to support social, mental and physical health and relationships for people with dementia and carers, and provide guidance for health, social care and voluntary sector staff.

What is the INCLUDE project?

Hear those involved in INCLUDE introduce the project, and explain what it means to them.