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The use of technology in care homes during the pandemic

One of the most iconic images we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic is the sight of families looking through glass panes to engage with their loved ones when visiting care homes.

The ban on visiting care homes during the lockdown has caused heartbreak to many families, and during the pandemic, staff in care homes across the country have turned to the use of technology to enable residents to stay in touch with friends, family and loved ones.

A good example is in North Yorkshire where elderly residents of care homes across the county can stay in touch with friends, family and loved ones with new technology to battle loneliness through COVID-19.

Using technology to enable service users to keep in touch

During the fight against the COVID-19, staff in care homes in North Yorkshire have adapted to new technology, ensuring residents can see the faces of their loved ones despite being in isolation.

Devices to provide video calling are being delivered to the ten North Yorkshire County Council-run elderly persons’ homes to facilitate video calling.

Staff at each of the homes will be trained in how to use the devices to support residents. The devices include an Echo Show, Facebook Portal and a Fire tablet. Residents can use Skype, WhatsApp and the Alexa to call their families.

An existing programme to install superfast broadband and wifi services at each home has been accelerated to due for completion when the devices became available for use.

Robert Ling the County Councils Technology and Change Assistant Director, said: “This is a prime example of why technology is so important in every area of life and the potential it has to change a situation.

“By using this technology, grandparents can see their grandchildren, wives can see their husbands, people can communicate face to face with their families and loved ones without breaking lockdown rules. This helps to maintain people’s mental wellbeing in very challenging circumstances.”

‘Virtual visits’

Dawn Spare, Deputy Manager at Benkhill Lodge, one of the homes to receive the technology, said: “It’s really wonderful for our residents to be able to see the faces of their loved ones – we’ve had a few happy tears from them.

“Having the tablets has been invaluable during this crisis when residents can’t see their friends or families when, normally, having visits would be the highlight of their day. It means families can have ‘virtual visits’ and it’s been brilliant.

“It gives everyone reassurance and peace of mind – families know their relatives in the care home are fine and it’s good for the residents’ mental health and stops them feeling isolated and locked in.”

Resident Carrie Watson, 93, added: “It’s marvellous and makes me feel emotional.”

Joss Harbron, Head of Provider Services, said: “The wellbeing of our residents is paramount to us – and that means every aspect of wellbeing, from physical to mental.

“A conversation with a loved one and being able to see their face will make a massive difference to people living in our care homes and allow them to stay connected during these unprecedented times.

“We are working round the clock to provide the best possible care for the most vulnerable in our communities and our staff are adapting at record pace to meet needs in any way they can. The technology will help to provide a massive boost to those shielding and isolating in our homes.”

Summary

We may look back at the end of the impact of this pandemic and reflect on those providers and staff of care homes who adapted to the use of technology for residents who were unable to see the faces of their loved ones, at a time when visiting was cancelled during the lockdown.

North Yorkshire County Council, and its providers and staff of care homes, should be commended for investing and adapting to the use of technology that enables residents to see their loved ones and gives everyone reassurance and peace of mind. I am sure we would all agree A conversation with a loved one and being able to see their face makes a massive difference to people.

When things hopefully return to normal, we should continue to make use of the benefits of technology as a means of residents keeping in touch when their families are unable to visit.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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