Care homes stay connected during COVID lockdown

Care homes across Somerset have been praised for the way they are using technology to keep loved ones connected during the COVD19 crisis.

Somerset County Council has thanked them for embracing IT to help residents and relatives stay in touch while visits to the county’s care and nursing homes are suspended.

Homes across the county are supplementing traditional phone calls with Skype and FaceTime chats, with residents often picking up new skills along the way.

And many are throwing themselves into social media to remind everyone that although the doors are closed, the great work to continues.

Somerset Care, the county’s biggest care provider, has seen resident video calls rise at least 20-fold since visiting stopped. And it has brought forward a pioneering new App to help its residents and their relatives communicate.

The RelsApp is an easy to use, closed social media group for sharing written messages, video clips and photos with family. Launched at Calway House in Taunton, it proved such a success that it’s being used by two more homes and is being brought to a further three.

The provider has a dedicated Care Technologist, communal devices for residents, and is taking part in research into how social media can help break down isolation.

“Maintaining contact with families is incredibly important, particularly now,” said Jason Shaw, Technology in Care lead at Somerset Care: “Being able to communicate regularly and see, as well as hear, each other makes a massive difference to people’s wellbeing.

“We launched the App early because we could see how useful it could be in the current situation. But it’s not just about having the technology available, it’s about supporting people to use it and luckily we’ve got staff who are enthusiastic about it.”

The latest social media projects from Majesticare’s Oak Lodge Care Home, Chard, include a PPE-inspired Tik-Tok homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a ‘We’ll meet again’ show from local singer Beth Goodman, broadcast to residents using FaceTime as a great alternative to performing at the home as originally planned.

Home Manager Andy Kirby said: “Yes, the doors are currently closed to external visitors but our amazing team are just brilliant at keeping our residents entertained and through the power of social media we provide great opportunity to share the fun and keep families connected to their loved ones.”

Activity Co-ordinator, Wayne Rooney, added: “We are always thinking of new ideas to bring the smiles to our residents. The team are great at just running with an idea and the residents love getting involved with all the fun.

“Oak Lodge has always been a place with a strong sense of community both within our home & across our Majesticare family but also within the local community. We have a really good local following through social media and it’s great to be able to bring a smile to the people of Chard, especially if we can make people feel connected during the current lockdown.”

Abbeyfield Residential Care Home in Bishops Hull, Taunton, has provided various types of electronic devices for the residents and are helping them record messages, songs and fun videos to share with family through Skype & WhatsApp. They are even streaming online church services from a local Baptist Church to enable the residents spiritual needs to be met.

Paula Howlett, Manager from Abbeyfield said: “We are really sensitive to making sure the residents maintain contact with their loved ones to reduce the risk of isolation and loneliness in these very strange times”.

There are more than 220 care and nursing homes in Somerset. More than 83 per cent are rated good or outstanding by the Care Quality Commission.

Councillor David Huxtable, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “The situation isn’t normal and may not be for some time, but a lot of people are working very hard to make sure life goes on in our care homes and nursing homes.

“Keeping up that contact is hugely important, for the residents and their families because being kept apart can be really tough. The way providers are embracing technology to make that happen is wonderful to see.”