Sep 16, 2020

“Oh my gosh, it’s like someone switched on a button” – bringing joy to those living with Alzheimer’s during lockdown

Learning how to use an iPad for the first time would be difficult for anyone, let alone when you’re 84 years old, and living with Alzheimer’s Disease.

But that’s what Antoinetta Tenace has done, and her daughter Anna says she has never been happier. Anna has been caring for her mum for two years in the family home, which has its challenges, especially now, during Stage 4 lockdown.

“We’re accustomed to it (lockdown) now; it’s become the norm. But before, she could go out, she would go shopping with me, and we would visit some friends.”

Antoinetta has been receiving care in her home for the last couple of years through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP), and was identified as a suitable candidate for the VMCH Technology at Home program, which is jointly-run by VMCH, a Catholic not for profit organisation, and YourLink – an organisation focussed on the digital inclusion of Australian seniors.

“Oh my gosh, it’s like someone switched on a button. She is so proud that she’s got it (an iPad), and that it’s hers. She is very happy to be thought about, that she was considered for the program”

The ‘Technology at Home’ program is part of the broader VMCH “In-Touch” program, involves providing individuals with a device, and YourLink provides training on certain aspects of technology, catered towards the participants age and skill level.

“The lead up before the lessons can be difficult, but the minute she logs on to Zoom and she sees everyone, she is very happy. I’ve even learned some things about the iPad! Someone suggested Spotify and it’s like ‘oh my god’, it’s incredible. It puts me to shame really, I should’ve been on to it, but I don’t have the time.”

Anna says her mum uses her iPad regularly, whether its listening to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, watching Italian movies, or receiving emails from her children and grandchildren – she is embracing all that technology has to offer.

“Mum is always asking for her iPad now. She is a real doer, and she will physically involve herself. She is able to see people, and listen to music every day, it gives her something to do. She is excited whenever she has an email, and while I don’t know how much the concept clicks, she loves to receive them. Her grandson sent a video of him playing some music and that was wonderful, she got to see him play.

“She always says ‘that’s lovely’ and ‘I’m so happy, thank you.’ She is really, really happy and so very proud. It is amazing. There’s nothing like the personal touch, but this means she is not alone, it’s wonderful.”

Caitlin Bell is a VMCH Community Support Worker, whose role has changed due to the COVID pandemic. Whilst she usually provides in-home care services, she now distributes and teaches clients how to use Zoom on their new iPads – a role which Anna says Caitlin is ‘a natural’.

“Both myself and the clients thoroughly enjoy working with YourLink,” says Caitlin.

“The program has sparked excitement in the clients, even though they may never have used a device like that before. YourLink has been able to make it fun, inclusive and very relaxed.

“Involvement is a big aspect of a person’s wellbeing. Keeping in touch and connected with family members and friends is so important. This device is allowing them to keep in contact and feel a part of something.

“On top of that, learning new skills keeps the mind stimulated and active, giving people a sense of purpose during their day. I hope they are able to use the device to benefit them and make their day-to-day lives easier. But my biggest hope is that it brings them a little bit of joy during a tough and strange time.”

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