Loss of a spouse is a frequent occurrence in later life. While most older adults successfully process this loss and will return to a normal life, a significant proportion (25,4%) is unable to do this. They end up with prolonged grief (PG), a condition where grief symptoms occur longer than 6 months after the loss, and which can result in many mental and physical problems, like poor sleep, cardiovascular problems, depression, loneliness and suicidal tendencies. In order to prevent PG or to treat it, so that older mourners can lead an active, meaningful and dignified life, we will develop an online grief program: LEAVES. LEAVES will cater to secondary end-users (family, informal caregivers) by reducing stress. Older adults, informal caregivers and relevant care professionals (total n = 110) will, together with the project team, develop the LEAVES service model, and, through iterative design and development, will optimize its usability and user experience.
LEAVES helps older adults to process the loss of a spouse in an empathic and caring online environment, which consists of the online grief program Livia (TRL-7), the Before You Leave program that allows for storing personal memories (TRL-9), RRD’s virtual agent platform (TRL-7) and accessible front-end design. It can detect persons at risk for complications and can uncover negative trends in their emotional life and will act to counter this trend. The service relies on online treatment if possible but will be blended with telephone or face-to-face counselling when necessary. The LEAVES service softens the mourning process, prevents depression or social isolation, strengthens widow(er)s resilience and wellbeing, and quickens a return to societal participation. An initial business case turns out highly positive, with a benefit/cost ratio of 11.66.
The LEAVES consortium covers three countries (NL, PT and CH), and includes lead users and exploitation partners from each country. The development of the LEAVES business model is a collaborative effort, guided by a research partner, specialised in developing innovative economic models for health. Exploitation is led by a highly experienced SME in Portugal and a large company in the Netherlands; whereby national exploitation routes are foreseen to implement the tailored service models throughout Europe. As such, a highly multidisciplinary team will be working towards successful exploitation (SME’s, undertakers, elderly associations, mental healthcare providers).
The project will include a real-life evaluation in which 315 end-users will use the service in 3 countries. The evaluation will focus on clinical effect, business case development, and technology acceptance. These results will pave the way for smooth integration in existing care paths and reimbursement schemes. After the project, the lead users in each country will exploit the service. Scaling up technology, shared marketing & sales services and a back office will be established to first introduce the LEAVES grief service throughout NL, PT and CH. Afterwards other countries and other mental health problems for older adults will be included.
The dissemination plan follows yearly goals: 1) creating awareness about the concept, 2) creating involvement, and 3) facilitating exploitation. Dissemination will be monitored throughout the project with quantifiable KPI’s. Target groups that are foreseen are end-users, potential lead users, the business community, researchers, and the general public.