“Digital has been a lifeline for our members living with Dementia”

Guest post from Amanda and Amy from Memory Lane :

Memory Lane is a care company based in Yeadon designed to help older people in the community who are living with dementia. We do this by inviting them to attend our activity day centre for cognitive stimulation and uplifting activities. During the pandemic we had to close our day centre and lunch cafes and have looked to adapt our services to ensure we still support and reach our most vulnerable members.

We recognised a more urgent need during lockdown for people to connect with each other as visits from family and friends were restricted, we approached 100% Digital Leeds who we have worked in partnership with throughout their NHS Dementia Pathfinder project.

Developing the digital offer

We have had support to develop a virtual offer of activities for our members including regular Zoom meetings so that they can connect with others. Some people were able to connect easily as they had some digital skills, however many others had low skills and confidence and many without devices. 

We began to work with carers who visited members’ homes in PPE with iPads and offered digital support, this has enabled so many to now access the sessions, stay connected with their families and boost their mental wellbeing, keeping them stimulated.

There are additional barriers people living with dementia face when interacting with digital technology, how to guides and toolkits from 100% Digital Leeds have enabled us to tailor our approach to meet the needs of each member individually, building confidence and being mindful of their conditions.

Trialling Alexa’s

100% Digital Leeds lent 30 Alexa devices to us which we distributed to our most isolated members, especially those living alone, with low self-esteem and increased mental health, they have been so successful in combating loneliness.

“Dad just loves it, we’ve heard him asking about the weather and saying good morning to Alexa. He has been so lonely since my mum died and Alexa is now keeping him company. We have shown him how to get onto a quiz and ask for the latest news and also connected him to a music app so he can ask for the songs he likes and we also made him a playlist of his favourites. Personally I feel so much more reassured that he is not alone anymore and I can even have a face to face chat with him when I am at work – usually to remind him to have his lunch or hang up the washing. Thank you Memory Lane and 100% Digital Leeds – we are so grateful”

“My mum just loves Alexa! We’ve set reminders throughout the day to remind her not to go out or to remind her to take her tablets. When I ring mum in the evening she says she always says goodnight to me and then goodnight to Alexa – she is her new friend!”

Digital Champions

Digital Champions have been really supporting our most vulnerable members who live alone. We had one gentleman who was prone to wandering. He did not understand or remember that there was a deadly virus outside and he had to stay at home to stay safe and most days would take himself out to the shops without any PPE.

We called him every morning to remind him to wait at home as we were coming to see him. We supported him with learning how to use zoom and connected him into the weekly exercise session, virtual quizzes and singalong’s.

This kept him occupied and consequently we managed to help keep him keep safe and engaged in communicating with others. He thoroughly enjoyed learning new skills, he had a tablet of his own but hadn’t really used it before and had forgotten many of its features, this new reason to use it has encouraged him to learn even more and get the most out of its benefits. He is now able to use it and join the sessions independently which has made a huge difference to him.

“My dad has really enjoyed the exercise classes on Zoom – keeping him active during lockdown. He misses the day centre and is prone to wander around town – not understanding the pandemic situation at all. He used to be able to use his tablet very well but hadn’t been using it since his dementia got worse. But Olivia has been visiting him in full PPE – to help him get online and now he is facetiming us again, this is helping to keep him occupied instead of wandering so much. Thank you all very much for your support, its life changing”

We have helped many others in this way over the months of lockdown with these devices and helped many to connect with their loved ones who were unable to visit. Sons, daughters, grandchildren and friends were suddenly “in the room” with them. It has been a great success!

Impact

There were barriers we faced along the way which we’re working to overcome, as many of our elderly members had no prior knowledge of the internet, no devices or Wi-Fi in their homes, and in most cases no support network or anyone to show them how to use the equipment or how to do something online. Some were reluctant to try, and found their anxiety or depression was a barrier to their learning.  We have spent time getting to know our members and addressing these barriers sensitively using an informal approach to introduce them to the online world and sharing the wide range of positive benefits they will experience once they become digitally included, especially on their health and wellbeing.

Seeing so many now be able to access the zoom sessions is incredible and so many that have developed their confidence and can really reap the benefits, which has boosted their moods and made them feel less lonely.

We have found this has enabled members to now have the opportunity to join other groups such as church groups and choirs, and be able to check the news, weather and play game apps such as crosswords and Sudoku. 

As many of our members are now being offered digital video appointments with their GP’s, we’re finding many that are hard of hearing are struggling with the telephone appointments so we’re supporting them with these digital solutions. Looking at ways we can provide digital support to members enabling them to connect via the internet to a GP, Nurse or Adult Social Carer and more.

“Thank you to all at Memory Lane for keeping us all in touch on Zoom and for my afternoon teas, brought to me every week during lockdown. A very big thank you for your kindness, the Zoom meetings have given us something to look forward to and cheer us up.”

“I am missing the Day Centre and Cafe very much because they help me to have conversations and activities that keep me alert. I look forward to them. The online meetings have made a lot of difference. The chat is encouraging and the quiz helps me think and the exercises help me to stay active. It’s also good to see you all. I am very grateful for what you are all doing”

Thank you to Amy and Amanda from Memory Lane for sharing this update, we’re thrilled the support of our digital champion training and Tablet and Alexa Lending Scheme has enabled so many members to stay connected, and supported them in managing their health and wellbeing through the pandemic.