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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Worried that a friend or relative receiving care is socially isolated? There’s an app for that


November 6, 2017, by Paul Cavanagh,

Angie Ryan wanted to go to the bridal shower of a friend, but getting there was going to be a huge hassle. And even if she got there, she’d never be able to get in. That’s because Angie has Friedrich’s ataxia, and her electric wheelchair wouldn’t be able to climb the steps.
But rather than send her regrets, Angie found a way to join the party. She attended via FaceTime. People at the shower passed an iPad around. She got to visit with everyone, including the bride. She got to see the gifts. “It was almost better than being there,” she says.
Angie has made a habit of using technology to keep herself from becoming socially isolated. It takes creativity and determination on her part. Her experiences hold valuable lessons for other people with disabilities as well as their families and friends.
Although Angie, a former nurse, currently lives in her own apartment with the support of Cheshire London, she spent three years living in long-term care homes. She initially found her time in long-term care difficult. Her self-esteem took a beating, and her ability to make choices for herself became limited. “I was angry and disillusioned,” she says. “But then I started focusing on what I could do to make it a better place.” Before long, she helped a fellow resident connect via Skype with a sister in Holland whom the woman hadn’t seen in twenty years.
“When living in a long-term care home, you start to lose the concept of normal living,” she says. She believes that family members play an important role in keeping relatives in long-term care engaged and connected. Technology can help, but people don’t always recognize its true potential.
She favours connecting via video over a simple phone call. She finds that visual communication allows people to feel more a part of their family’s life. She offers the following practical suggestions:
  • Arrange to sit down for tea with your relative, even if you don’t have time to visit the long-term care home in person. You could do it from work, home, or even a coffee shop. It lets your relative remain connected with you and the outside world.
  • Next time you go shopping, take your relative along via FaceTime or Skype (video). Show them what’s in the store. Ask for their opinion on purchases, if you like. Make it a social experience.

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Angie is an inspiration to me