Staying Connected: Internet Access for Care Home Residents in Isolation
As care home residents face uncertain timelines for social isolation, Internet access is vital for breaking down barriers and fostering the ability to connect and communicate with loved ones. Despite this, of almost 18,000 care homes in England, only 6,330 provide internet access. The evidence of the value of Internet access to the elderly as a life-enhancing activity is clear. For the older generation, high quality of life is dependent on having a sense of purpose and inclusion within the community. This means strong social networks, physical activity and mental stimulation. In the current circumstances, these are not possible in the way they once were, and care homes need to adapt accordingly.
For those who have had to take the most aggressive self-isolation measures in order to remain safe during these challenging times, digital offerings provide a lifeline. With Internet access on a unified network, residents in care homes can lead more socially active lives than ever before.
What are the benefits of internet access?
Now more than ever, using the Internet to communicate with friends and family is vital. In the current climate, care home residents are among the most socially isolated members of society. The world has moved online. Email has taken over from letters, Facebook holds our photographs and the rest of the world have moved their chats over a cup of tea to Zoom. It is paramount that the older generation are not excluded from this. Where visits from family and friends have been limited, these can be replicated with ease using video chat and online messaging, allowing residents to stay connected with their loved ones.
Internet access can expand a care home residents world ten-fold: with a new opportunity to learn new things, they can gain a sense of achievement and source of dynamic stimulation. Examples include listening to music, visiting galleries and museums online or learning a new skill – the opportunities are limitless, and can provide a much-needed distraction during this period.
AgeUK trialled One Reach as a means to enhance relationships and give care home residents a sense of self and purpose. They introduced Individual Personal Life Story Books for all residents. They found that this gave them opportunities to support residents to:
- Use the Internet and digital cameras to create story books
- Add their own narratives, and images that recorded major milestones in their lives
- Find out more information about the places where they grew up, went to school or used to work
Both volunteers and staff enjoyed learning about residents’ histories, and residents enjoyed being able to talk about their lives.
What are the considerations?
Training and support
Residents will need time to familiarise themselves with and become confident with computers, tablets and mobiles. For many, these are foreign to them, and it’ll take time to become accustomed to equipment. There will also need to be an aspect of ‘training the trainer’ to ensure staff are comfortable supporting residents with their newfound digital freedom.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that the many innovative services now available for care homes cannot be deployed due to poor internal network infrastructure found in the majority of care homes. Putting a robust unified WiFi network in place isn’t just about improving residents’ quality of life. It is an enabler for the delivery of digital care which is being mandated throughout the NHS and which inevitably impacts on care homes.
Care homes should consider what infrastructure they require to cater for enabling innovations and what the implications may be if they are not able to do so.
Contrary to popular belief, installing a network throughout your property doesn’t need to be a significant investment. While some providers will require a capital investment, Vital Wifi offers a complete system on a modest per room monthly charge which can be funded from operational budgets. A significant benefit is that care home clients get ongoing monitoring and maintenance support included, so you are having complete peace of mind.
What can we do?
Technology has proven to be a powerful tool in our response to the pandemic, keeping us connected in ways we could not have imagined a mere few years ago. As people face uncertain timelines for the length of social isolation, Internet access is transforming our daily habits — breaking down barriers and fostering the ability to socialize and stay occupied seamlessly. We now need to ensure that this can be replicated across every age-group in society, and that we do not further widen the digital exclusion gap. Vital Wifi can help with our managed service solution.
What is a managed service?
The Vital Wifi managed service offers a cost-effect solution to a modern problem. With no upfront cost and a fully managed network, you’ll be able to run your business, while we run your WiFi. We’ll survey your site to ensure 100% coverage across your venue before your system is installed by DBS checked installation technicians. Hardware, further replacements, repairs, and call outs are all included: we provide 24/7 customer and staff support and supervise the network remotely to ensure all is running as it should; providing optimal service across your entire building at all times.
To help care homes take care of their residents during these challenging times, Vital Wifi are offering this service from as little as £4 per room, per month. There will be no installation fee and we won’t start charging until 3 months after the system goes live.
To find out more, speak to one of our technical advisors today.