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Researchers aim to improve self-management of early-stage dementia through innovative online platform

In a world-first, researchers at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) are trialling an online intervention for people with early-stage dementia with the aim of improving self-management techniques.

A multi-site trial in collaboration with Norway and the UK, the SHAPE (Self-management and Health Promotion in early-stage dementia with E-learning for carers) trial aims to support people living with mild to moderate dementia manage their diagnosis, as well as educating their loved ones.

Currently, more than 500,000 people in Australia have dementia with 250 new diagnoses each day. These diagnoses are expected to rise to over 300 per day within the next five years.

The demand on General Practitioners (GPs) is also high, with expectations for GPs to conduct dementia screening and assessment procedures, coordinate specialist health care services, counsel family caregivers, and plan for the future, all within constrained time.

SHAPE will test whether an online training and support group for people in the early stages of dementia, together with an e-learning programme for carers, can help to improve a person’s ability to cope with the condition.

Professor Kaarin Anstey, Senior Principal Scientist at NeuRA and Director of UNSW Ageing Futures Institute, says their objective is to place people with early dementia at the centre of their care, providing a high quality, low-threshold health care solution.

“Our aim with SHAPE is to provide individuals with early dementia, and their families, with access to knowledge and support, so they are better able to manage their own health and wellbeing, and the changes that occur,” she said.

Results from previous research show self-management groups are beneficial for people with early-stage dementia. However, this intervention been never been conducted online.

Participants in the trial will either receive the ‘SHAPE intervention’ or a control. The intervention involves an online group session once a week for 10 weeks, where each participant will be given an easy-to-use iPad to join these sessions. Additionally, family members and friends will have access to an e-learning programme.

People in the control group will receive a placebo programme but will have access to the official e-learning programme, containing the study materials, after the trial is complete.

If successful, researchers hope the trial will inform the type and standard of care that individuals and families receive following a diagnosis of dementia.

If you may know someone who would like to participate, we are looking for people who fit the following criteria:

  • a diagnosis of dementia, considered in the mild to moderate stage (associated with tMMSE ≥15; assessed by the research team)
  • 65 years of age or older
  • Ability to read, write and communicate in English to a comfortable level
  • Hearing and vision which are sufficiently good to engage in a group setting
  • Ability to provide informed consent to participate in the study
  • A care partner who is willing to be involved in the study

Exclusion criteria:

  • Dementia with Lewy body dementias, frontotemporal lobar degeneration or Semantic dementia
  • Other significant health contradictions which could impact participation
  • Are currently taking part in another health promotion or cognitive training programme

SHAPE is an EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research project (JPND). Researchers received funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to run the Australian site.

For more information about the SHAPE trial or to enlist, please visit