Beate Steller (left) assisting Southern Cross Care resident Edna Petfield to use Skype

A guide to help aged care organisations support residents to use technology and social media to stay connected with their loved ones has been launched in Canberra today.

Tech Connect: Staying Meaningfully Connected in Aged Care is a resource for spiritual carers and others working in residential care to help plan, implement and evaluate a program to support residents, including those with dementia, to maintain relationships and virtually attend family occasions, such as weddings.

Launched by Meaningful Ageing Australia, Tech Connect aims to support residents’ spiritual wellbeing by helping them maintain important connections with the people and occasions important to them and through conversations in the lead up to and following a call or event.

The guide has been written by Southern Cross Care spiritual wellbeing coordinator Beate Steller who utilises technology at SCC’s Nagle Residential Aged Care as a way to bring memories and current experience into a resident’s life.

“It is about keeping connections going,” Ms Steller told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“It is not just the technology but the way you facilitate it and make the connections before, during and after an event.”

She said her work ranged from assisting relationships with simple skyping or messaging between a resident and family in Australia or overseas to planning big events that involve the residential community.

“It all serves a spiritual purpose of enabling the resident to feel connected, involved, valued and wanted in their family life despite being physically separated,” Ms Steller said.

Virtually attending family occasions

When Pat, an 87-year-old resident of the facility of seven years, realised she was too frail to attend her grandson’s wedding, Ms Steller offered to bring the wedding to her.

Following conversations with Pat and her family and arranging the required technology, Ms Steller created an event that enabled Pat and her friends at the facility to virtually attend the wedding.

The wedding was shown on a large screen and residents celebrated with a high tea put on by the facility’s chef.

The whole process allowed Pat to be involved in the wedding despite not being physically there, which was “an incredible experience for all the family,” Ms Steller said.

“In the weeks leading up there was all the preparation, the couple skyped Pat before the wedding and afterwards it was all the reminiscing and the memories,” Ms Steller said.

Easy-to-use technology

Ms Steller, who was motivated to write the guide as part of the Master of Ageing and Pastoral Studies program she is undertaking at Charles Sturt University, said she was not an avid tech-user, but has found it easy to learn what is needed to implement a successful program.

Meaningful Ageing Australia CEO Ilsa Hampton said while many people were committed to spiritual care, some were not comfortable with technology.

“This unique guide makes it possible for increasing numbers of older people to experience more meaningful connections by offering a practical and sensitive approach to the use of technology as a bridge-builder,” Ms Hampton said.

To be implemented, Tech Connect needs a decent internet connection, the support of leadership and the whole team, and staff with the appropriate spiritual care skills, she said.

TechConnect has been formally launched at Charles Sturt University in Canberra on Friday morning.

See Meaningful Ageing Australia’s website for more details.

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