Students Help Elderly in Northern Sydney Stay Connected Through Virtual Wellness Programs During COVID-19 Restrictions

on the Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Uniting NSW.ACT has begun leading the way in virtual wellness and reablement programs for the elderly through a partnership with Western Sydney University students.

Home and Community Care (HACC) clients within the Northern Sydney region were able to experience structured recreational and wellness activities specifically designed for them by the students during Covid imposed restrictions.

Chad Couper, Area Manager for Northern Sydney Uniting HACC, said the virtual program played a crucial role in maintaining the client’s social and recreational activities.

“Our support workers guided the students on how to provide a very personalised approach to care and the whole process helped them strengthen their relationships with our clients and experience their gratitude and excitement first hand, virtually,” said Mr Couper.

The program involved connecting 25 Bachelor of Health Science students with clients over Zoom to understand their interests, strengths and goals.

The students worked under the supervision of Uniting’s Diversional Therapist, Edwina Gow and were able to learn how to research, design, develop and implement as well as evaluate a six-week program based on the client’s care plan.

“The virtual platform program succeeded in engaging clients and provided them with vital social connection at a time when face-to-face contact was not possible. The interaction with the students offered clients, varied opportunities which encouraged them to stay connected with family and friends and learn new skills,” said Mrs Gow.

Student Maddison Hawkins created wellness boxes based on the clients’ different interests. The boxes contained various do it yourself (DIY) kits which ranged from reading resources to help them learn a new language to painting, cooking and candle making.

“With Therapeutic Recreation, there is no limit to what you can do for your client. If the client wanted to learn how to paint, we could assist them with a demonstration and if they wanted to experience sky diving, we could provide a virtual reality headset so they can have the experience of sky diving safely within their home,” said Ms Hawkins.

Uniting client Thora Lancaster said she felt rewarded by being able to reminisce about the past with her daughter through the program. With guidance, Thora was able to take photos being projected by her daughter and then enlarge them onto the TV screen.

“My daughter and I had a lovely time bonding over my life journey and experiences through these photos which I hadn’t seen for many years. It helped that the students were technology savvy and they assisted with helping me to print copies of photos that were not the originals,” said Ms Lancaster.

The School of Health Sciences within Western Sydney University is planning to use insights from the program placements to inform further opportunities and continue to assist community-based aged care organisations in late 2020.

Uniting aims to run more student placement programs with two students recently being successful in applying for support worker roles and are now in the process of onboarding with the Northern Sydney Home and Community Care team.