As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Here at Space and the Broomhouse Hub we have been laying our digital foundations for some time, taking steps to ensure equity of access and appropriateness of approach for all our service users. The Coronavirus pandemic has been awful for everyone, but we were relieved to feel somewhat ‘ahead of the curve’ when it came to changing our service delivery plans.
Back in the summer of 2019 we received Digital Participation Charter Fund support for our Dementia Friendly Digital Skills project in our Beacon Club and were halfway through our delivery when the national lockdown hit last March.
Up to that point we had been taking baby steps with our Club members and their families, using the kit we had purchased with the funding to offer light touch skills support focussed on easy digital interactions repeated over time.
When all my members were told to shield due to being severely at risk from coronavirus, we had to very quickly change our delivery approach to remote assistance. By this time, some had managed to slightly increase their digital confidence, but all were at risk of isolation if they did not have devices at home to allow them to join online, or the confidence to manage the process alone.
We made an application to Connecting Scotland and were awarded Chromebooks, iPads and connectivity to distribute to members who were shielding and most at risk of being cut off from key services. This was an incredible boost but only one part of the picture – it was so important we had wrap around digital skills support available because having the devices alone wouldn’t magically get everyone online!
So, we started to climb the remote learning mountain together! Small steps were once again required. We asked carers to help set up zoom calls – “what’s a zoom call?” some replied. We shared a Zoom for dummies video and offered 1-2-1 telephone support to coach carers through Zoom navigation and set-up.
The day I had my first Zoom with a member was great fun:
“It’s Nancy,” I said. “It’s lovely to see you – I have missed you lots!”
“Nancy?” came the reply, “is that really you? You’re looking old!”
Thank goodness it got better from there! We gossiped and laughed, I updated her on all her friends who she was missing terribly, and she showed me her chair exercise routine.
The next stage involved getting a small group together on Zoom and that took a lot of planning with dates and carers’ availability, connectivity and members snoozing in their chairs. We arranged for an afternoon tea to be delivered to four members and met on Zoom for some fun and a catch up.
After initially all talking at once, the meeting format worked incredibly well and everybody recognised each other, which had been a worry of mine since there had been no face-to-face contact for so long. We all took turns to do 5-minute updates while we ate our lunch. We played a game and completed a music quiz and chatted with one another.
At the end of the meeting, we asked how they enjoyed the Zoom. Feedback included:
“It was lovely to see and laugh with everybody.”
“I felt like a movie star on screen.”
“The tea was lovely; the chat was great and seeing my friend was the best.”
Some of our key learning to date includes:
- Keeping the group small so it’s easier to interact with each other
- Making sure there is a carer around to fix problems with sound and any other issues that may arise
- Don’t make it too long – one hour was enough Zooming for everybody
We are continuing to support our members with their well-being and mental health. All our group and 1-to-1 services have moved to online platforms, video calls, telephone and email. We are also accepting new referrals, as anxiety grows around the mental health consequences of Covid-19.
Reducing the isolation of our members and helping them to find the confidence to manage their own health outcomes are two of our main priorities going forward.