DISCOVER – Caring for Carers, Digitally

The Context of care

All EU countries are experiencing an ageing of their populations, with a decrease in the number of people of working age and a corresponding increase in the number of retirees. The rising demand for care from a growing older population has cost implications for governments, for service providers and for families who will continue to provide the vast bulk of care and support in the community.

The role of digital technologies

Digital technologies can increase the skills of those who provide care, expanding health literacy and access to information to help improve carers’ understanding and management of specific conditions. This in turn can assist in the delivery of better care and lead to a better quality of life for both the carer and the cared-for person. Across all EU Member States there is considerable scope for digital technologies to transform care. In the past, attention focussed mainly on telehealth and telecare, with technologies such as alarms, sensors, aids and monitoring equipment designed to assist the person with the care need, with little or no attention given to how technologies and online services could be used to better support those providing care—family carers and paid carers. With the growth of independent living technologies there has however been a move away from purpose-built devices to off-the-shelf cell phones, smart phones, tablets, and personal computers, bringing more aspects of care into people’s homes and offering greater opportunities to support the carer as well as the cared for person.

DISCOVER – a new online resource for carers

DISCOVER is a pan-European project funded under CIP-ICT-PSP (2011: 3.2) call to support the digital inclusion of carers. It aims to embed digital technologies in the everyday reality of caring for older people, whether the carer is a family member or a paid care worker. To achieve this, DISCOVER created accessible learning solutions which include an e-learning platform developed according to user-led methodologies promoted by the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL). This platform, which is available at includes a virtual learning environment which brings together a host of learning materials, including computer simulations that imitate real-life care situations, informative videos, computer games and a host of web resources that have been optimised to display on different screens (e.g.tablets or mobile phones) and for low bandwidth internet connections. It provides quality assured information on the most common health problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, dementia and heart disease in a way that enables carers to gain valuable digital skills and to talk to other carers in a secure environment.  To help carers get the most out of the DISCOVER platform and to allay any concerns carers may have about using the internet, the platform offers digital skills training on how to stay say on the internet and how to use social media effectively. It also caters for the needs of those carers who wish to build a transferable learning portfolio that can demonstrate achievements to future employers or educational institutions.

The DISCOVER platform was tested by 498 family carers, care workers and older care recipients in Greece, Spain, UK and the Netherlands.   Results confirm carers’ need for help with immediate problems to manage day-to-day caring responsibilities and for information about health conditions, skills and services to support better care. Our evidence points to the isolation of care work and the need for services to support carers to support each _other__.  _At the end of the test stage, family carers and care workers confirmed that DISCOVER enabled them to gain new digital skills (59% and 67% respectively), to gain knowledge about using technologies for care (89% and 76% respectively) and to increase their knowledge of health conditions (83% and 71% respectively). More importantly, care workers and family carers described how they are using their new knowledge and skills in their caring roles, and this was confirmed by some of the care managers and healthcare professionals supporting the care recipients, and they confirmed that participating in DISCOVER improved the wellbeing of carers.


The DISCOVER partners consortium, nine European partners:

  1. CASALA, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland,
  2. Digital Birmingham (Birmingham City Council)
  3. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece,
  4. Astra-Com VOF, the Netherlands,
  5. Birmingham City University, United Kingdom,
  6. Cetemmsa, Spain,
  7. Coventry University Enterprises Limited, United Kingdom
  8. Fundación INTRAS, Spain,
  9. Open University, United Kingdom

For more information and to sign up to the portal, please visit or contact NetwellCASALA.