Podcast Episode: Alzheimer Scotland: the place of Near Me in our service
Category: Digital inclusion
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
MD - Michelle Drumm
GF - Gillian Fyfe
MD Near Me in Social Services is a project Iriss has been leading in partnership with the NHS Near Me team and the Scottish Government Technology Enabled Care Programme over the autumn/winter of 2020/21. The project is producing new evidence around the priorities, enablers and challenges of using video consulting in social services. Iriss has supported 5 services to participate in a rapid quality improvement cycle to start using Near ME, provided light touch improvement support to organisations that are setting up Near Me independently within their work and has developed a learning network. The learning network aims to build on and continue the support to these organisations using Near Me while increasing the scope of support to others. Each learning network meeting includes speakers on related topics. In this episode, Gillian Fyfe, Head of Digital at Alzheimer Scotland speaks about their experiences of using Near Me to provide support to those living with dementia, family members and professionals.
GF I just wanted to give you a bit of a flavour of our experience of using Near Me and how it fits with the suite of different tools that we’ve adopted over the last, nearly a year. We had a digital team in place in Alzheimer’s Scotland for about the last 4 years and just before that we had started off by developing our technology charter and the technology charter was setting out the rights and expectations that someone living with dementia and their family should have when it came to having technology included as part of their care or support. And it was a human rights-based approach and it was about making sure that people had the information and the access to make the decisions that were right for them at the right time.
So, with that in mind we had done work that was funded through the Technology Enabled Care Programme from Scottish Government and that was all around developing digital technologies that could help to support people living with dementia to stay at home for longer, to maintain their social connections, to make sure that they were connected to their friends and family and to maintain their wellbeing. And a lot of that was work around things like GPS devices, it was work around environmental sensors and things like that and then we got involved with Attend Anywhere, now Near Me, in the fairly early stages as well and although we wanted to make use of it, it was a very slow burn at that stage. So, we had set up some surgeries for our dementia advisors, for any of you that know our structure, we have 21 resource centres with another one due to open just shortly, around the country and we’re hoping to eventually have one in every local authority area: that’s the plan.
We wanted to have digital dementia advisor surgeries and those were running once a month and we had a rota of dementia advisors and we did some learning sessions with them around Near Me and how to use it and how to get online and the May we had one or 2, 2 or 3 people at each session so, they were never run off their feet with people who were looking to do that. What we found was that we tried it as a national surgery and obviously digital gives us the ability to not have those geographical boundaries so, it didn’t really matter which dementia advisor you spoke to, they were able to give you a standard of information and then refer you into your local area for connections to services and support that might be more specific and we wanted to build that up and we also had surgeries with Allied Health professionals, occupational therapists: people like that, but it was always seen at that point as “a nice to have'' I think.
You know it was, the priority was always face to face, we’ve got our resource centres, we’ve got our support staff, we’ve got our locality teams and that’s the priority and that’s what people like and that’s what people want and we know how to do that, we know how to do that well. So, why would we add this different medium to it when we don’t know that that’s actually what people are looking for. So, that was okay and we worked away and we were kind of slowly breaking down some of the barriers and some of the resistance that we had and then last year, you know things just changed over night so, we closed our doors on all the resource centres and all of a sudden, we had to find a way to be able to keep in touch with all these people that we’d been supporting face to face for all this time.
Near Me was really a lifesaver for us because we had that platform in place, we had the infrastructure, we had our team who already knew and were confident in using it but then we had a staff team of around 200 who had previously been delivering all this face to face support and we had to work out skills, confidence, motivation, access to the right devices, connectivity, digital skills so, we had to address all of that within our staff before we could even think about how they were actually going to support the people in our community so, working alongside our IT team, we had to make sure that people who hadn’t needed devices before because their work was face to face, so some of our support workers for example who worked out of the resource centres might have access to a shared computer that they would use every kind of 2 or 3 days to check their emails but that would be as much as they ever did and they might have some personal skills around things like using social media and emails but what we found was that people tended to leave those at the door when they came to work, the transferability of those wasn’t always obvious so, that was something that we had to do a bit of work around as well.
People obviously weren’t confident in how they were actually going to deliver support in that way because they’d never done it before, they didn’t know how it would work so we had to do a lot of work around redesigning those services because you can’t just take a group for 20 people, a dementia café for example, where you might have 20 or 30 people in the room and automatically transfer that over to a digital environment and expect it to work in exactly the same way. So, we had to think about how you would actually deliver those services and give a lot of support to people around that as well. In terms of what we did with Near Me, we set up … we have 45 waiting areas and 47 meeting rooms. So, the meeting rooms we use for smaller therapeutic activities but where the nature of the discussion isn’t particularly personal and the waiting areas we use for appointments.
So, imagine being in a group setting or being in a solo session with a GP or somebody like that. So, we use the waiting areas for those solo sessions but with the advantages that Near Me brings of being able to bring in additional family members, additional professionals, practitioners to take part in that conversation and we’ve found that that has been really positive and actually we’ve had family members saying, I had no idea that the person that I care about was capable of so much because when they went into the resource centre and I dropped them off and they did whatever they were doing and then I would come back and pick them up but I never really saw what they were doing, I didn’t get that involved. So, that’s something that has been really nice through Near Me is that we’ve had probably an additional level of connection with that extended network of the family that we didn’t always have before. What we’ve also found is that we’re able to support people who didn’t live near our resource centres or who weren’t able to get into them for any variety of means so, in terms of how we progress now, it’s something that we offer and we’re not going to withdraw that.
So, we’re never going to go back to saying, that this is the fall back, this is now something that we do as a matter of course and it’s built into a suite of offerings that we have of digital offerings now and part of what we had to do was help our staff navigate which platform was right for which activity. So, we use Near Me, we also use the Go To platform and we use Microsoft Teams, so they’re our 3 main platforms. So, we started off very heavily on Near Me but we also had a need for something that was going to be able to host larger groups, so that was when we had a look around and we identified Go To as the platform that we wanted to use but also Teams is our means of communication within the office.
So, we had a community of support for people using those platforms on Teams and we’ve built up a really nice library of resources that staff can draw on and I think what we’ve seen is that people are becoming more and more confident in using these things and they’re coming up with some really exciting and innovative ways of getting people involved and making sure that people are engaging in the activities and from the evaluation that we’ve done of our digital activities so far, it’s been received very positively and we’ve been successful so far in being awarded about 412 devices, I think it is, through Connect in Scotland so that and putting in place the digital Champions Network that Aaron was talking about before and that’s a model that we’ve adopted with Alzheimer’s Scotland and that’s something that has been really helpful in how we support and engage people, going forward.
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