A pioneering international study is exploring how health promotion and self-management programmes could be used to support people with early-stage dementia and improve their health outcomes.

The Self-management and HeAlth Promotion in early-stage dementia with E-learning for carers study, or SHAPE for short, is looking to recruit people with a mild to moderate dementia diagnosis and their carers to an online programme.

SHAPE is open to people aged 65 and over who have a diagnosis of mild to moderate dementia and their carers – individuals with Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia or mixed Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia are all able to participate.

The study is being coordinated in the UK by the University of Exeter, a member of the Russell Group.

What the study involves

SHAPE combines two existing interventions which have previous success in improving support for people with early-stage dementia, plus an e-learning module targeted at carers. From these components, the study team have created a group-based programme designed to improve how those with dementia manage their health and wellbeing.

The two existing interventions are self-management, which aims to help individuals manage their dementia symptoms so they can reduce the impact the disease has on their daily life; and health promotion, which encompasses health and community initiatives designed to support those with dementia.

The level of treatment people with mild to moderate dementia receive currently varies. This study is evaluating whether the SHAPE treatment model is effective in comparison to usual treatments, and whether it could be widely used to support people living with mild to moderate dementia.

All participants will be randomly separated into two groups: the group-based intervention programme group or the ‘treatment as normal’ group. If selected for the intervention group, participants will attend weekly two hour online group sessions during a 10-week programme to explore how they can maintain good relationships and stay active, healthy, safe and independent, all while managing their dementia symptoms.

Carers of people taking part in the intervention group will not attend the online sessions, but will have access to an online portal covering the same information and also containing a wealth of knowledge about dementia and relevant support services.

Participants in the ‘treatment as normal’ group will not take part in the online programme, but will have access to the online educational programme after the study is complete.

All participants and carers from both groups will complete three questionnaires during the study: once at the beginning, once after approximately three months (‘treatment as normal’ group) or at the end of the 10-week programme (intervention group), and once after approximately nine months.

Benefits of taking part

Professor Ingelin Testad, chief investigator from the University of Exeter, said: “SHAPE is a really interactive way to reach out to people living with dementia and help them believe in their own abilities, while we also look to improve the quality of care for these people at the same time.

“We hope to find that SHAPE is a cost-effective solution to improving quality of life and postponing care home admissions, so people can maximise the amount of time they live well with dementia.”

Inclusion criteria

To participate in this study, you must have a diagnosis of mild to moderate dementia, be aged 65 years or older, and have a carer who is also willing to participate. Recruitment for this study closes on 31 January 2023.

To find out if you are eligible to join this study, as well as other dementia studies, sign in to your Join Dementia Research account or, if you are not already registered, sign up today.