A group of unpaid carers have embraced new digital skills to combat lockdown loneliness, thanks to support from players of People's Postcode Lottery.
Scarborough and Ryedale Carers Resource (Carers Resource), a Carers Trust Network Partner, operates a peer support group for older carers living in remote rural areas who may be at risk of isolation. Before lockdown, the group met fortnightly to enjoy a few hours of respite from the daily responsibilities of caring.
When restrictions were implemented, local cafes and galleries were forced to close, threatening to bring the group's adventures to a standstill. With the risk of isolation for rural carers now greater than ever, Carers Resource was determined to find a way to keep the group together.
Staff agreed that the best way to help the carers stay connected would be move the meet-ups online, but they faced challenges. Many of the older carers didn't have internet connection or a suitable device at home, and some had never accessed the internet before.
Carers Resource sprang into action, arranging one-to-one phone calls to find out what equipment and support members would need to get online, so they could stay connected with the peer support group and its activities. Hours were spent on the phone as staff helped the carers learn how to use their online devices. Those without devices were provided with Kindles, and carers without internet access were given dongles so they could connect.
In just a few short weeks, the results were miraculous. The group mastered the devices and became digital champions, allowing them to stay in touch with their friends throughout lockdown.
Once they'd got to grips with online meets, the group received engagement packs to ensure each virtual session was as fun as possible. Special meet-ups included a VE Day 75th anniversary celebration, where packs containing bowler hats, flags, cupcakes and bunting were delivered to the doorstep of every carer before the call. They also participated in a Musical Memories session, where carers received packs containing songsheets and blow up microphones and guitars, so they were ready to start performing as soon as the screens went live!
The online sessions have had an incredible long-term impact on the carers' wellbeing. Instead of having to wait two weeks to catch up with friends from the group, they can now connect online as often as they like. The project has helped carers outside of the group too, as they can now do what they couldn't before - stay in touch via video calls with their children and grandchildren until they can catch up in person again.
Reflecting on the success of the project, CEO of Carers Resource, Elizabeth McPherson, said, "It has been a joy for us to watch these carers embrace new technologies and change their lives in the process. I'll never forget the laughter and sheer joy on the faces of all those carers when they turned on their screens for that first Zoom call and saw all their friends there as well!"
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