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Connected Caregivers

By Andrea Orvik, E-Communications Specialist, Family Caregiver Alliance

With its proximity to Silicon Valley and corporate technology giants like Apple, Adobe, Cisco, Google and HP, San Francisco  is known as a very connected city. Now, with an important partnership between San Francisco’s Department of Aging and Adult Services and the city’s Department of Technology, a goal of bringing broadband training and access to seniors and adults with disabilities is becoming a reality.

The 2012 Aging & Disability Technology Summit, held yesterday at San Francisco’s City Hall,  was a key event planned by this partnership (along with other contributing organizations like Community Technology Network and local senior centers), as part of  the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP).  BTOP is, a Federal program of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), designed to digitally connect those who might otherwise not  have the opportunity. So, how does this movement help the area’s caregivers?

Family Caregiver Alliance was present at the event, staffing both a Caregiver Resource information table, and hosting a workshop entitled “Connecting Caregivers to Digital Support: An Introduction.” FCA’s Education Coordinator, Paige Harvey, was present at the summit to help answer questions at the resource table.

“I was able to show people how to get directly to the events page so that they could register for [FCA’s caregiver-focused] classes,” commented Paige. Such classes include Controlling Your Frustration and Take Time to Smell the Roses. “It was great to have internet and computers available, it also allowed us to show people our Caregiver College videos on Youtube.”

The workshop presentation was delivered by FCA’s Director of Operations, Leah Eskenazi, and two family counselors, Christina Irving and Lois Escobar. Leah, Christina, and Lois demonstrated  various applications (or “apps,” many of them free), now available online or downloadable for different smart phone platforms. Lois and Christina were on-hand with iPads to demonstrate how these apps worked. The Family Consultants began using iPads in 2011 in meetings with family caregivers. At the consultations, caregivers can watch videos of practical skills like transferring a loved one, see examples of assistive devices, learn communication skills for loved ones with dementia, or see a video of a typical day at an adult day center.

A number of attendees used this conference as a way to explore options and try out different computer programs. Quite a few visitors, many of them caregivers, seemed eager to learn how technology could help them in their daily lives and in particular how it can help them better connect with others.

“People were looking at the fact sheets and were excited to see our YouTube channel to be able to watch actual caregivers demonstrating skills,” Christina explained—skills used everyday in the caregiver role, like Bathing & Dressing, or more challenging ones like Behavioral Issues.)

Several of the apps covered by presenters focused on helping caregivers keep track of their loved one’s medications.  Other apps help caregivers to manage their own schedule while also integrating things like doctor’s appointments for their loved ones.  FCA staff even covered apps for increasing brain agility of a care recipient, or for simply helping the caregiver “take a break” through guided meditations or music and nature sounds.  (Respite and self-care for caregivers are strong focuses of FCA; we offer a fact sheet, Taking Care of You, and hold one- and two-day retreats for caregivers.)

In addition to keynote speeches by local media personalities and public officials, the workshop presentations and resource tables, the City’s facilities housed a room equipped with numerous computer stations and experts on hand to help seniors, persons with disabilities or their caregivers get online and learn about the numerous resources available to them.  This included basic tutorials on how to use Google, Facebook, YouTube and even online games.

If you missed the event, we’re including some photos below of the many seniors, caregivers and family members taking advantage  of the free computer stations and internet access at the event. Also, the presentation slides of our workshop, and the “app chart” handout for caregivers are available on our website.

To stay abreast of this event and follow-up coverage, (or if you’re a Bay Area caregiver seeking to learn more about free internet access and computer classes offered in San Francisco’s neighborhood community centers), please visit: www.sfconnected.info/ and www.sfhealthyaging.org.