Steve has written an article for www.myageingparent.com where he discusses the creation and benefits of Visbuzz. See the article below, and at http://www.myageingparent.com/keep-touch-using-technology/
Keep in touch using technology with Visbuzz.
- Many of us worry about older relatives and ageing parents, especially if we live far from them and can’t easily pop in for a cup of tea or a quick chat. I felt just this way about my mum. I also felt guilty because I knew my mum’s loneliness was causing health problems, but I couldn’t see how things could change.
- Loneliness has a real impact, not only on those concerned about ageing parents, but also the organisations and people who provide care and services to them. I am learning what many health professionals already accept; loneliness often leads to depression and physical illness, particularly in older people who may be less able to sustain their mental or physical wellbeing. If they are frail or have other conditions, it makes it harder for them to socialise, or be active
- Some estimates suggest that 30% of GP call-outs are to elderly people, whose real need is for company. They need not live in a remote location; loneliness can be just as acute in our inner cities, where an older person may not know the people across the landing or next door
- Since my Dad died a few years ago, my mum had become less mobile, less interested in travelling, or doing anything which interrupted her usual routine. Our family is spread around the country and, although we all did our best, no one could be with her all of the time. She is fiercely independent, wanting to stay in her own home, but the combination of isolation from her family and living alone meant she became lonely and her emotional and mental health began to suffer
- Faced with the prospect of years of trying to balance the needs of my family, my business and my independent mother, I tried many ways to help her and also to reduce my guilt at not being able to be with her all the time. Carers and ccommunity workers cater for her physical needs, but it was her psychological and emotional needs I wanted to provide for. She wanted to be included and connected to those who mattered most to her. But how?
- I noticed that regular visits from family resulted in great peaks of happiness, but then, once the family departed, deep troughs of unhappiness and depression. In reality, no visits at all may have been an appropriate way to keep her health stable. But we could not contemplate not seeing our mum, so we continued to visit regularly and my mum’s health deteriorated. She fell more often and her general health was wors,e which meant more hospital visits. She was often short tempered, especially with my brother, whom she saw most often, because she felt unwell much of the time. She became increasingly cantankerous . As this was happening, so my sense of guilt and worry deepened. My two siblings felt the same. How could we make our mum happy AND keep her emotional and mental health stable?
- It was obvious that finding a way to reduce her isolation would improve her general health, so I looked at several possibilities. These included Skype and Facetime. However, signing on to both of these is complex for people who are not used to working with computers and they were difficult for my mum to use. She found it hard to remember the processes to follow and was easily confused and frustrated
- There was another problem too. My mum has arthritis in her hands and so using a keyboard, mouse or electronic keypad is difficult for her. That meant that none of the existing phone or PC programmes for video calls really met her needs. I tried setting up Skype on a computer in her home, which I controlled remotely. However, she disliked this arrangement, as she felt it interfered with her independence, as she had no control over accepting the video call or not. That was when I realised that it was up to me to find a solution as part of the package of support that was already available to her
- The solution had to increase contact with my mum without taking away her independence. Also, it had to make sense for the whole family. I invented a way that my siblings and I could connect to my mum using a tablet computer. For my mum, using it is as simple as touching the screen. It has really enhanced my mum’s life, increasing her happiness and reducing her susceptibility to illness and bouts of depression
- For my mum, the tablet computer is just like a picture frame, a part of the furniture and not a scary piece of technology
- Research suggests that it takes 3 to 4 weeks to create a new habit, so I made sure I went to see my mum regularly for the first month, and we used the device together to speak to my sister and brother. This way she became accustomed to using the one touch device (I call it Visbuzz) and I was always there to help if she needed me
- She soon became confident with Visbuzz. She could see that she controlled the technology, not the other way round, and that there was nothing to be worried about. During this time my mum commented that she was having a little trouble with the arthritis in her hands and wasn’t always able to touch the screen with accuracy or firmly enough to use it comfortably, so I introduced a stylus to make the touch screen as accessible as possible
- Now we can see her daily, we can include her in family gatherings, she can join us at mealtimes without travelling and without having any complex technology to worry about
- Sometimes the things we need to solve problems are not out there. If they exist at all, they might not be available in our area, for example, voluntary organisations offering befriending services are not nationwide and statutory services may recognise the problems associated with loneliness, but simply don’t have the capacity to offer older people the company and support they want
- So it’s up to us to think of ways around challenges like this. I have looked at how to address the challenges of modern living through the technology we now have. If you think of something that can help your ageing parent, the likelihood is it will help others as well, so don’t be afraid to come up with your own solutions
- Many people are in the same situation with their parents as my siblings and me. We would love to hear about your experience. so please share them with us on our forum
Steve is the founder of Visbuzz. He has been a company CEO/MD for over 20 years and is an experienced coach and facilitator. He works with senior team members in growing businesses to help them become better leaders making better decisions and achieving better results. Steve supports a number of charitable organisations and is also actively working towards ending loneliness If you’d like to know more about Visbuzz, either visit www.visbuzz.com, or call us on 03337 729637