Hallmark Care Homes – Keeping relatives and residents connected
Remaining in contact with family and friends has become even more important during the Coronavirus outbreak and Hallmark has introduced a new App called RelsApp to help keep everyone connected.
RelsApp is an easy to use, safe social network that works on any device and enables the sharing of messages, videos and photos. Our teams can see when a resident has received a message or photo and, if required, help them to enjoy it, and respond. Video messages from loved ones can be watched again and again, bringing comfort and reassurance. This aspect is particularly supportive for people living with dementia who miss the touch of a relative and the sound of their voice.
April Dobson, head of relationship centred care at Hallmark describes how the App was introduced in the care homes; “
“We worked in partnership with the developers to personalise the App for Hallmark, initially testing in 2 homes at the start of the year. We shared a common aim; happiness! As we went along, we kept the person at the centre and always thought about the joy it would bring to help an older person to see videos of their grandchildren, and share music and memories….
As the Coronavirus started to affect day to day life, it became immediately evident that RelsApp would be useful for all of our homes. The team at RelsApp created some short training videos for us all to help our team members, residents and relatives get started. We have been able, in a small way through Relsapp to recreate the feelings associated with seeing and hearing a loved one.”
Howard Bashford, the person behind RelsApp told us about the thinking behind the App;
“My partner, Lilla, retired from being a care home manager. I asked whether she had any regrets. She said “none” but she felt that her residents missed out on online communications which we take for granted. That is how it started. For me it was also about my mother and my son. I wanted to develop a safe technology which bridges generations and brings together grandparents and grandchildren. We realised that developing communications which helped the residents, their families and, as importantly, the care home team as well, was key.”
The platform was developed using “closed social networking”. It looks and feels like many other social networks but Howard’s team have ‘closed’ it. You cannot search for anyone to connect with, you have to be invited. Closing a social network makes it a safer place for people who are unfamiliar with technology. During the journey, Howard and his team won the UK IT Industry Award for “Digital Inclusion” and were Runners Up (to the BBC) in the Nominet Awards for “Protecting Users From Threats And Crimes”.
Howard admits that the journey hasn’t always been easy especially as they had set the bar so high at the start of the development process. “It has been hard work. Technology has to look good to all ages. It has to look cool to a teenager and easy to use for an 87 year old. We are not for profit, but whatever you develop has to look as good as Facebook and Skype.
We started with the functionality and the look and feel. We focused on the residents and the carers. Our team includes some great technical professionals but we concentrated on keeping it simple. Our care colleagues led the development at all times, not our technicians.
I knew it would be a success the first time I showed a video message to a resident from her family, who were away on holiday. Everyone was in tears of joy, including me. It was one of the best days of my life.”
During the Coronavirus outbreak the App has been an invaluable communication tool, helping to keep relatives updated with new initiatives and what’s happening in the homes. In the short time since the app was introduced, we have shared individual homes’ newsletters, a monthly gardening club newsletter, activities programmes and a new fundraising initiative – The Great Hallmark Scarfathon.
It has also been a wonderful way to begin building each individual resident a bank of their favourite photographs, memories, clips from films and TV, and music. Many relatives have uploaded videos of grandchildren and special moments from all over the world for their loved ones to share. Hallmark team members have helped residents to do the same and families have expressed how wonderful it is to be able to see that their relative is safe, well and enjoying life.
Hallmark team members have described how RelsApp has helped residents;
“One of our residents enjoyed learning about our new app and received a video message from his brother and sent him one as well! So lovely to have found a way to keep all families as close as possible! It was such a beautiful moment!”
|We are up and running and I wanted to tell you it is amazing!!!
We have connected with so many delighted families and friends today, it has actually been very overwhelming.
Thanks for introducing such a great resource which will bring joy and reassurance to so many.
|Times are a bit crazy at the moment and we are very busy in the homes, however I wanted to take a moment to thank you for RelsApp. Fortunately we have been lent 12 iPads during this time which has enabled us to make the most of the app. We have set up accounts for all residents and the lifestyles team has been working hard to upload special music and videos for the residents. We have also connected with most relatives and have started to see the benefit of the app.
I wanted to share a little about how it has helped the home. One lady was very poorly but we were able to have her favourite music playing for her when she passed away which means so much. Equally we have had positive feedback from many family members who are enjoying uploading photos and seeing their loved ones leave messages.
Hopefully this situation won’t last too much longer but I certainly feel fortunate we have this whilst it does. Obviously it will also be a great resource in the future once normality resumes.
|“Some very emotional scenes this morning…families are being so incredibly grateful just to see their relatives’ faces” .
|We started using Relsapp today! It’s been amazing! Already had 10 families use it to share videos and pictures and it’s so lovely to see the residents faces! The team are slowly learning how it all works and can’t wait to use it to work with residents on a one to one basis|
Feedback from relatives has also been positive. One relative told us; “As a relative, I know how busy the team that care for my mother are. By using video messaging, sharing music and writing stories, I know that I am creating invaluable activity content which the carers can share with my mother when it is the best time for everyone.
Skype is great, but it can be rather disruptive if I insist that I want to talk to my mother at 3:15pm! Recording a message on RelsApp means that the care team know it is there and can fit it around her day. Everyone is happy and Mum can see the videos and stories again and again. It’s simple and it works (for everyone).”
RelsApp will continue to be developed further in the future. At Hallmark we believe there are many more smiles to be had and look forward to working alongside Howard and his team.