The corona epidemic starting in March 2020 affected the activities and the lives of the residents of Myllypuro senior centre in many ways. Group activities and various recreational activities, as well as the gym of the service centre, which are aimed at seniors and the unemployed in Helsinki, had to be suddenly suspended. Daytime activities that usually have some 70 clients participating in the activities once or twice a week, were suspended. Also, the short-term care places in ward 4 had to be closed. Family members’ visits to the ward were banned, except for those in end-of-life care. Music performances and other live cultural events were suspended. The active voluntary workers could not visit the centre anymore, nor contribute to its activities. Digital services and technologies provided us an opportunity to produce replacing services to senior citizens living at home.
New options through digitalisation
The staff was quick to take on new tasks and tools, and learned new skills. The senior centre staff was trained almost overnight to implement their activities online and to use the new tools. With video-assisted online connections, the staff members quickly started to organize new types of group and recreational activities, to supplement the already existing remote rehabilitation. Physiotherapists produced mental, balance, memory and chair exercises to their clients living at home, as well as brief ‘wake up’ exercises.
The occupational therapist arranged a nature club and a social club for playing cards. The hospital chaplain learned how to do services, meetings with the chaplain and signing together online. Social instructors instructed poem reading activities, mental well-being groups and the newsroom group remotely online. The seniors have even danced in an online dancing group and participated in the remote Friday disco night. This autumn, an online group for elderly men started. Remote daytime activities were arranged for those daytime activities clients that had a suitable device at home, and testing a high intensive remote rehabilitation service twice a week was started, as a new service.
Approximately 4-6 senior citizens living at home participate in the remote groups using a tablet. The sending device is located in Myllypuro senior centre. Corona spring raised a lot of interest in developing and launching novel, versatile activities that can be organized online.
As the group activities of the residents had to be almost completely ceased due to pandemic-related restrictions, new ways to produce various cultural experiences were developed. For example, audio broadcasts and virtual cultural events worked very well online. The residents could participate in cultural and recreational activities with the help of tablets. In spring 2020, Myllypuro senior centre had the Hublet tablet in user trial which meant that the residents could use the tablet, including its own functionalities, and the internet’s almost unlimited offer which brought a lot of joy to the shared everyday life of the residents and the staff members.
Keeping contact online
The corona pandemic also changed the everyday life of seniors living on the ward and brought new challenges as to how to support their physical, psychological and social capacities. The visit ban of friends and family members was perhaps the most difficult concrete change to the residents, that was also difficult to accept at times. The senior centre quickly needed to find new ways to replace physical visits and to ease the feeling of longing, in addition to the traditional telephone communications.
The possibilities to keep contact were expanded with the help of video calls, email and instant messaging. However, it was difficult to obtain applications to support more diverse communication in the devices of the unit because most of the residents do not have an email address or a Messenger or Whatsapp profile of their own. Also, not all of their friends and family members have these communication means in use either. However, a suitable means of communication was found to everyone in the centre, to be in contact with their loved ones. Also a traditional letter or a postcard made the residents happy, a picture attached to an email as well, and a video call brought the loved one very close, almost physically present.
Care negotiation, which is arranged when a new client moves in, has traditionally been very important for the upcoming cooperation. The resident, together with the family members, discusses with the care team and plans together the means to enable a good and meaningful life of the resident. Due to corona-related restrictions, this negotiation quickly went online. At its simplest, the negotiation was conducted on the phone, with the loudspeaker on.
The entire staff was involved in the successful digital leap
Very quickly, the entire staff learned how to use digital platforms. The staff trainings, working groups, internal meetings and meetings with voluntary workers were transferred to Teams. This resulted in significant working time savings.
New technologies offered a safe and agile tool to produce novel services, enable communication between the residents and their loved ones, and produce a wide variety of cultural services. The corona pandemic with its many restrictions has been hard to the residents, clients, staff members, family members and voluntary workers but in digital matters, we were able to take a giant leap forward!
The text was first published as a blog post of HIPPA project in October 2020.Writers
Mirja Kiiski, head nurse, Myllypuro senior centre
Mari Sairanen, director, Myllypuro senior centre
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