Care provider uses Skype to foster sense of belonging and wellbeing

Award-winning not-for-profit Somerset Care recognizes that people have basic needs: to feel safe, accepted, loved, and a sense of belonging. They also see that the use of technology in care can help support these needs—as well as improve health and wellbeing. With a vision to enhance care with technology, the organization has been using Skype in their care homes for over 10 years.

Somerset Care provides residential, nursing, and specialist dementia care—as well as support for adults with complex needs—in homes across England’s Somerset county and the Isle of Wight. They understand how to assist with basic needs—and beyond.

So, in 2013, Somerset Care sought even more insight into the use of technology in care. They took part in a social experiment to learn how to bolster social inclusion and wellbeing in older people. One-hundred-twenty people over the age of 65 took part in this project, which brought social media platforms—including Skype, email, and Facebook—to participants who had never before used social media or a computer. “Skype was the most used and enjoyed platform, closely followed by Facebook and then email,” says Jason Shaw of Somerset Care. Sixty of the participants continued with no use of technology, but the other participants were ready to incorporate social media and computers into their lives.

“Each of our care homes has computers for the residents to use as they please, and we’ve since invested in hand-held tablets. Our residents use these in a variety of ways, including Skype, playing games, and emailing relatives,” says Jason. “Two of our care homes have recently started to make Skype calls with each other, meaning that residents from the care homes can chat together and form new friendships.”

And Somerset Care is fully on board with this enterprise. Thanks to the findings of that 2013 social experiment and research project, they have since employed a full-time “Care Technologist,” a role that provides support to their care homes and residents using a variety of technologies. Technology in Care Workshops have been crafted, too, and rolled out to the homes, including one dedicated specifically to the use of Skype in care.

Residents especially enjoy the ability to contact their friends and family members. “It’s particularly useful when a resident has first moved into a care home,” says Jason, “as this can be unsettling for the resident and their family.” Many of the success stories speak for themselves.

“We encourage our residents to experiment with technology to find out what works best for them,” Jason continues. “One of our residents wanted to use Skype to connect with her daughter on a more regular basis. She’s hard of hearing and relies on lip reading and body language. … The issue was solved using the instant message function. During Skype video calls, her daughter will type instead of talking, and the resident then verbally responds.”

Another success story is that of Olive, who was able to watch her grandson’s wedding via a Skype video call.

We love hearing how you use Skype to enhance the experiences of those around you. To share your story, just tag us @Skype on social media, and we might feature you.

*Images courtesy of Somerset Care.