When my father arrived at Castle Grove just two weeks before lockdown in March last year, he did not have a mobile phone, had never had cause to use a PC, laptop, tablet or any other form of digital device. Yet he is an incredibly social 95 year old who loves to chat with people of all ages, had a very close relationship with members of his family and a large circle of neighbours and friends with whom he was in very regular contact. In 15 years of living alone he would make the short walk into the town centre most days or drive his mobility scooter to engage with staff in the bank, post office, GP surgery or supermarket. He loves to be fully up to date with what is going on within his family, locally and around the world.
With the onset of lockdown 1 the change to his lifestyle was much more dramatic than those already in a care home as he had not had time to properly adjust and this was a particularly difficult time for us all. We had got him a mobile phone when he arrived and he needed help from the nurses in the early days to use this and as he is pretty deaf often the conversations were very difficult.
The advent of the booked skype calls at the Castle Grove office did help as we found he engaged much better on screen and certainly had a greater understanding of the conversation. We were also able to show him photos etc.. on the screen to keep him in touch with what was going on in our lives. We then moved back to controlled visits in the garden for a short time which when the weather was good worked well but on a couple of occasions it was too cold for him but any contact was better than none. During lockdown 2 we were back to skype again for a period before controlled visits inside behind the plastic screen. This was by far the worst experience as it literally felt like a prison visit! I was lucky enough to get two in room visits and was actually able to give him a hug and hold his hand after nearly 10 months before we went into lockdown 3.
During this period Castle Grove had made a number of improvements including upgrading their broadband to enable each room to have access. This then gave me the opportunity to look at options to keep in touch on a more consistent basis and the Facebook portal seemed to be the answer, although getting a 95 year old to understand voice recognition has caused some very funny moments!
Dad is now able to see and speak to any member of his family at any time he wants by just asking the machine to call and he is really engaged in the conversation, noticing everything around us on the screen. We have bought portals too and the calls also pick up on our phones if not at home. Portal to portal the picture is really clear and the sound is excellent, so he can fully engage in the conversation, see his new great grandson, the various dogs and cats he loves so much and is certainly much more chatty then when on his mobile phone. He does seem to be really enjoying this and has helped hugely until we can finally get the green light to commence visits again.