Posted 07/07/2020

Care Technology to Help the Vulnerable During Covid-19

Swan Housing Association is bringing hope to vulnerable members of the Essex community during the Covid-19 crisis by working alongside Essex County Council to provide innovative Video Carephones to its Supported Housing residents and Domiciliary Care clients, helping them keep in touch with friends and family while aiding social distancing.

The Alcove Video Carephone is an integrated, easy-to-use device which enables users to make video calls to pre-identified services via a locked down tablet and a web portal, including getting shopping and other basic essentials through the Help@home service provided with the device. Responders can use the Alcove app/web site to make calls, issue reminders and prompts which will allow the continuity of care and ensure general health and wellbeing.

In partnership with RETHINK Partners and AlcoveEssex County Council is delivering 2,000 Video Carephones to vulnerable people in Essex with the aim to supplement face-to-face contact, aid social distancing and support emerging needs related to COVID-19. It also ensures that staff and their families will be protected from infection and can continue to work during this time. Users are being supported to set up the devices remotely and their friends and family members can also be added during set-up.

Swan has been using the device with 15 customers to date and has plans to roll it out further. 

Marianne* is a ninety-year-old who lives independently in the community with assistance from Swan Care and Support which provides a carer who visits her three times a day to help with personal tasks such as meal preparation, getting dressed and shopping.

Marianne's son also usually visits her regularly, but Since Covid-19 he has not been able to visit her as she is shielding. Marianne, who has limited mobility, was finding her contact with family being restricted to phone calls only extremely difficult. The provision of a Video Carphone has enabled her to talk to her son - and see his dog whom she loves! - via video several times per day. It has also enabled the Swan staff team to check in on her through video calls between visits.

Marianne's son, Stephen* said:

"The Alcove Video Carephone has proved to be greatly beneficial. You can sense my Mum's delight at being able to see and hear her loved ones. I think that the device has actually improved her health and given her a bit of quality of life back; there is a brightness about her". 

Stephen was also quick to praise Swan's team of carers for their support during this challenging time. He said:

"Swan has been fantastic; I don't know what I would have done without you. I would have been so worried if you were not there for my Mum". 

Essex County Councillor John Spence, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care said: "We are delighted to be leading this exciting project. This is a limited offer that we are providing for 2,000 of our most vulnerable service users and those who can get the most benefit. It not only will provide people with care and support calls, but help them with loneliness and to connect more easily with the support networks in their community."

Clare Morris, chief executive of RETHINK Partners said: "During the coronavirus outbreak, we are using the device to connect people to their regular services allowing much of this to be provided remotely and without contact. This includes paid care, supported discharge from hospital, scheduled check-ins and prompts for people with mental health issues and contact for people with learning disabilities, who may be missing out on regular visits to day centres. We are also linking in with the Essex Welfare Service to ensure daily living needs are met such as shopping and prescription collection for those who are shielding or self-isolating."

Hellen Bowey, founder and owner of Alcove said: "This opportunity to deliver simple video tech is really helping to support people in the community quickly and easily - combatting loneliness and isolation, whilst also delivering benefits to already stretched providers. Our one-touch Video Carephones allow us to deploy easy-to-use technology as a solution to the current situation - without users needing to understand how to use Zoom or Skype, and not leave those without their own smart devices behind, whilst the rest of us adapt to a virtual world. Users are already discovering the immense benefits of being digitally enabled."