The onset of COVID-19 brought many changes to family caregivers and service delivery. Many services shifted to online and virtual support, leaving some caregivers struggling to access this new platform due to lack of technology.
Recognizing this need, the Caregivers Network for East Kootenay Seniors, an agency partially funded by Interior Health, purchased 27 iPads. They delivered these iPads, along with cases and Apple pens, to clients in need throughout the East Kootenay.
Interior Health understands how the ability to keep people and their families connected is vital to mental and emotional health, and has been proactive in helping people and their caregivers receive these online tools to allow for ongoing therapeutic, virtual connections.
“This was a wonderful project and targeted a real need in our community. We were able to reach seniors and caregivers who were already extremely isolated and more so due to COVID 19,” says Executive Director Tobi Johnston. “One caregiver broke down and cried when she received her new tablet stating she had not left the house or spoken to anyone in days. Our staff spent countless hours teaching seniors and caregivers how to use FaceTime, how to download Zoom, and how to participate in our online support groups.
"We have even gone so far as to provide support in providing tutorials on how to call grandkids by video call. Through this project, family caregivers in our region have demonstrated their tenacity and ability to rise up and meet the challenges and changes in how support is offered. We are so proud of them and our community in staying connected and safe during these times.”
One of the people who benefited was caregiver Dave Dunbar. Donna Singer, Dave’s daughter, says giving her 88-year-old father the ability to visit their mother via FaceTime was invaluable.
“Our parents were separated early on in the (COVID-19) quarantine, as my mom went into hospital. Window visits proved to be frustrating as neither could hear the other through the two-inch window opening. As restrictions eased, he was be able to visit in-person at least once a week, but the FaceTime calls continued to be invaluable on days when visiting isn’t available. As well as talking with Mom, Dad has been able to see his kids, grandkids and great grandchildren via screen.
“Please let all involved people and organizations know how grateful Mr. Dunbar and his children are for the iPad provided for him to use from the Caregivers Network for East Kootenay Seniors Family and Interior Health for supporting this program.”
Through regional engagement with the Caregivers Network for East Kootenay Seniors, Dave was able to access the technology to remain connected to loved ones but also to participate in the Network’s caregiver support group online. By accessing this online virtual support group Dave not only found emotional support in his caregiving role but went on to become an advocate for other caregivers and seniors in the region to embrace technology and ask for help.
This example clearly demonstrates that as the nature of senior health care continues to grow in complexity, providing education, training, and emotional support and services is critical for the well being of caregivers and those they care for.
Reprinted with permission from Caregivers Network for East Kootenay Seniors