A project that supports people in remote locations to manage their long-term conditions at home has adapted its working practices to support the mental and physical health of service users during COVID-19 crisis.
The mPower project aims to help people with conditions such as diabetes, COPD, dementia and Parkinsons, by creating personalised wellbeing plans, in a bid to improve their day to day lives.
It also uses digital interventions to enable vulnerable people to live safely and independently in their own homes by introducing them to health and wellbeing technologies.
Before the pandemic, the team would visit their service users in person to teach them about the different technologies available and connect them with activities in their area.
But over the past two months, it has had to significantly adapt its ways of working in order to continue helping the elderly and vulnerable throughout the current crisis.
Anne Clark, who has been working as a community navigator in the Ayrshire and Arran region of Scotland for the last two years, said: “We’ve experienced a significant increase in people being referred to us over the past couple of months for a whole host of reasons. Usually, we go out and do face to face visits with people, but now we’re helping them over the phone.
“One of the main issues we deal with is loneliness, and this is definitely more prevalent now, especially for those who are self-isolating. Lots of people are struggling with feeling lonely at the moment and that can have a really negative effect on their mental health.
“In the past, we would help people who felt socially isolated by introducing them to different social activities and events going on in their local area to help them feel more connected. However, this isn’t an option at the moment, so we’re looking at how to use technology to combat loneliness.
“For some people, that can mean teaching them how to keep in touch with their family over email or video calls, but it’s important to remember not everyone has access to this kind of technology. Sometimes, we just need to keep in touch with people over the phone and check in regularly to make sure they’re OK. For some people, that might be the only contact they get all week, so it’s vital that we’re there for them to find out how they’re getting on.”
mPower has also been helping people use technology to organise online food deliveries and stay active without leaving their home.
“We’ve also been helping people use technology to organise online food deliveries. We talk them through the process of setting up an account and using the internet or an app to order their groceries,” explained Clark.
“Physical health has also been an important focus area. With so many people unable to leave their homes now, many are experiencing side effects like lethargy or their muscles seizing up, so we’ve been encouraging them to use technology that can help them keep active. For example, we recently helped someone use their tablet to access online videos of chair exercises for them to do at home.”
mPower is funded by the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme, which was set up to help overcome issues that arise from the existence of a border, such as access to social care services. It operates across Western Scotland, as well as in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Clark continued: “It’s an extremely rewarding job. The feedback we’ve received from the people we’ve helped in recent weeks has been so heart-warming. I’m delighted to be able to make people feel better in any way I can during this difficult time.
“The project has always been about supporting people, and you could say that’s more important now than ever. I’m really proud of the way our team has adapted to continue helping those who need it most by making positive differences to their lives.”
Underlining the importance of the project at this time, Gina McIntyre CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body, which manages the INTERREG VA Programme, said: “The empathy and understanding displayed through the work of Anne Clark, and the rest of the mPower team is helping many of our elderly and vulnerable citizens in so many ways.
“They understand the loneliness which is affecting so many people as they struggle with self-isolation and by teaching them to use technology to keep in touch with friends and family, or even to order groceries and keep fit, they are creating a vital lifeline between these groups and the rest of the world.
“A lifeline that will keep many safe until this crisis is over. I am so proud of the work they are doing and the tremendous impact that it is making.”
Caption: The mPower team pictured in the Western Isles in November.