Improving peer support for people with young onset dementia (YOD)

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United Kingdom United Kingdom University of Nottingham

Early Stage Researcher (ESR2)

ESR: photo of Esther Gerritzen

Esther Gerritzen

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Prof. Martin Orrell

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Dr. Orii McDermott

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Hello, my name is Esther Gerritzen and I am from the Netherlands. I have completed a BSc in European Public Health and a MSc in Health Education and Promotion, both at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. During my bachelor studies I conducted a placement at the University of South Australia where I was part of a research team working on an intergenerational dementia programme. During my master studies I worked as a research assistant at Alzheimer Centre Limburg where I provided support in eHealth interventions for informal carers of people with (young onset) dementia.

I am particularly interested in combining dementia research with eHealth interventions. I am very grateful that I can be part of DISTINCT and I look forward to working together with people with Young Onset Dementia and their families to improve online peer support.

Start date October 2019
Duration 36 months


Peer-support is widely acknowledged as extremely beneficial for people with dementia and their carers. Peer support for people with YOD is available in large cities but most people with YOD have limited opportunities to meet other people with YOD and become isolated. Younger people with dementia (onset below age 65) are familiar with everyday technologies and most use mobile phones and computers for work and social purposes. Various apps for smartphones and tablets are now available to help with everyday tasks (e.g. reminders) but online resources to support psychological wellbeing of people with YOD are limited.


  1. To develop an online peer support network for people with YOD
  2. To assess the impact of the network on physical, psychological and social independence of people with YOD. Longer-term community-based support is necessary beyond immediate post diagnostic care

Expected Results

Online peer support groups and development of resources including hints and tips for people with YOD involves people with YOD as ‘co-developers’. Systematic review on peer support for people with young onset dementia. Establishment of peer support networks and evidence of feasibility and best practice in implementation and maintenance of such networks. This study works closely with people with YOD and EWGPWD to help develop web/app based peer support networks for people with YOD, in the second phase we use qualitative methods to assess impact on people with YOD and process evaluation around improving implementation and dissemination.

Planned secondment(s)

Two for 3 months each. The first in year one with Alzheimer Europe to learn about priorities for people with YOD and the second in year 3 with MU to examine how to implement peer support across YOD.