"Carers need some escapism when they are looking after a person with dementia, and lockdown makes that difficult and can magnify problems. We are here to help with that."
Emma Smith, project manager,
More people than ever are being supported by Salford dementia services during the COVID19 health crisis – thanks to new online sessions – from virtual meetups to quizzes, sofa sing-a-longs and a disco.
Empowered Conversations and Salford Age UK's Dementia Support Services have joined forced to meet the increased demand for support in lockdown.
Emma Smith, project manager for Empowered Conversations, a support service for carers of people with dementia run by social enterprise Six Degrees, says Covid19 has acted as the catalyst for a spike in demand for people affected by dementia and their carers who are turning to online support in Salford, which has forced charities and social enterprises to think of different ways to stay connected with those people that rely on them.
She said: “Empowered Conversations was in the fortunate position of already running some of our services via the online platform Zoom, so in terms of adapting to the technology, it has been great, as our staff were already geared up for it and we were able to secure some COVID-19 funding through Salford Clinical Commissioning Group to get the online groups off the ground.
“What has been surprising is that service users, who have previously point-blank refused or had to be cajoled into joining online sessions over fears of the technology; are now welcoming it with open arms and we are seeing more requests from people in their 70s and 80s who are embracing the virtual world.
“The technophobes have been converted and it has meant now and in the future when life returns to normal outside of lockdown we can continue to expand our services online to compliment the work of Age UK Salford alongside our physical meetups to increase our reach.
“Carers need some escapism when they are looking after a person with dementia, and lockdown makes that difficult and can magnify problems. After attending a recent online art class, carers reported feeling 'relaxed, saying they lost themselves in the drawings and that it recharged their batteries'. Caring for somebody living with dementia 24:7 is demanding, online groups offer a space to share, recharge and get through the day.”
The weekly virtual sessions by Empowered Conversations and Age UK Salford offer a wide variety of discussion topics and activities, it has even spurred participants on to enjoying their own quiz sessions or cocktail hours with family and friends outside of this support system.
Age UK Salford CEO Dave Haynes says staff have been providing essential shopping to over 70s and vulnerable adults, keeping in touch with clients by phone and using new technologies like Zoom to run music, meditation, exercise and games for the brain.
He said: “Living with dementia or caring for a loved one with dementia can be difficult under normal circumstance so there could be even more of a strain in lockdown – and we want to be on hand to relieve some of that.
“It feels great that we are able to support more people in their homes, when they need it most and that people who you wouldn’t expect are embracing this new-found skill to stay connected and communicate.
“We have ventured into new territory as an organisation, setting activities up online for the people we support, but it has been a vital service to ensure that those people who were used to face to face contact or 1-2-1 calls are still seeing a familiar face and are being encouraged to join in with fun activities that are also good for their health and wellbeing like armchair exercises, singing, quizzes or just a good chat. This could change how we can connect with more and more people in the future who can't easily leave the home.”
PHOTO: Empowered Conversations team – who are providing online courses with Age UK Salford – Emma Smith pictured far left