Combating Lockdown Isolation with Technology and Music

4 years ago
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New restrictions mean residents of aged-care facilities are feeling more isolated than ever, with overworked, overburdened staff scrambling to provide services to continue to support quality of life. But with visitors limited and lifestyle programs cancelled, how can we safeguard against fear, depression and loneliness while maintaining morale and lifting spirits?

Today, remote technology can be harnessed to create joyful and meaningful connections for residents and staff in residential aged care. We know that being able to provide reminiscing and musical therapy is key to improving the experience of residents in aged care facilities. The problem has been that the implementation of this therapy is challenging due to technology constraints, high cost and limited staff time and skills.

Aged care facilities are being inundated by offers of technology. How do they make the right decision when choosing the best technology for their residents?

The key elements that need to be considered are as follows:

  • Beneficial health impacts
  • Appropriate for all cognitions
  • Can be used for all mobilities
  • Hearing and sight friendly
  • Comfortable for residents
  • Not limited by location of residents whether they are in their rooms or in a common area
  • Easy to set up and easy to use for staff
  • Rapid training
  • Continued operational support
  • Affordability
  • Can be used during infection control and lockdown

Staff are now expected to be person-centred in their delivery of care, to understand and develop meaningful relationships with individuals. The goal for facilities under the New Aged Care Standards is to create a ‘home’ environment for residents with the individual at the centre. The challenge to achieve this is that staff are now more culturally and generationally diverse making authentic connections more difficult. With 75% of aged care staff reportedly planning to leave the sector within 5 years, deep and meaningful relationships are hard to maintain.

During times of isolation and lockdown this is even more paramount given the enormous pressure and high expectations placed on staff. The right technology choices can make a substantial difference in both maintaining morale and staff retention. In order to achieve this, it is imperative for the choice of technology to be easily implemented, easy for staff to use operationally, and most importantly, sustainable. The fear I see in the sector is the thought of any investment collecting dust in the corner cupboard.

The technology must provide support and additional training for any new staff to join a facility. The investment must be in technology together with operational support that is linked with the facility rather than the tacit knowledge accumulated by individual staff members. Similarly, providing staff with the opportunity to upskill and create efficiencies will reduce the likelihood of turnover.

Used properly, technology can provide a richness of experiences for residents and staff alike. The range is extensive offering inclusion and diversity with entertainment, cultural activities and spiritual care in multiple languages. For an affordable cost, technologies can now deliver a catalogue of podcasts, music and videos targeted to this specific group which can even be customised for personal preferences. The result is happier, more stimulated, more engaged staff and residents.

Dr Kirsten Challinor from the Australian Catholic University describes the positive outcomes (of music therapy) by stating that it:

“…has demonstrated efficacy in treating observable behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, in particular depressive symptoms. Research has found that music-based therapy encourages people across all stages of dementia to better relate and communicate (verbally and non-verbally) with family or friends, when they may have struggled to do so previously.

In particular, research by my team in 2019 found that the use of innovative technology to provide music as therapy significantly improved participants’ total mood and made people ‘happier’. Importantly the program was effective at making seniors feel significantly less lonely. There were also some positive indications that the use of this program may reduce depression.

Research by my team in 2019 found that Moove & Groove’s program significantly improved participants’ total mood and made people “happier”. Importantly their program was effective at making seniors feel significantly less lonely. There were also some positive indications that the program may reduce depression.”

At Moove & Groove, we collaborate with age services providers to deliver meaningful experiences through silent disco programs, and reminiscing and music therapy content to residents to via wireless headphones and a digital catalog of thousands of songs and audible content. What’s more, facility staff can be trained remotely to deliver and run these programs in under an hour.

I am looking forward to a time when all residents have access to appropriate and meaningful technology so they can enjoy this world. Joy and meaning can be experienced by everyone, no matter what age or cognition using the right technology. What a difference it will make to their quality of life no matter what the circumstances.

Kate Sowden is General Manager at the Moove & Groove Program