In early 2020, most of us knew much less about what technology was out there to help us communicate with friends and loved ones, manage our wellbeing, exercise and keep motivated.
But our shared experience of lockdown has made us much more aware of the tech that’s available and how it can bring us together in times of isolation.
That’s really helped to change my perspective on how technology can play a vital role in helping people with a brain injury cope with isolation.
Technology can help with everything from staying in touch with loved ones to mindfulness, music therapy, health monitoring and goal setting.
In short, technology can help life continue after brain injury, and can play a big part of any care plan.
My Experience of Lockdown Isolation
As the parent of a 12-year-old only child, I was acutely aware of the effects of isolation during the first lockdown.
He couldn’t socialise with other children his own age, was thrown into a new world of home schooling, and his only company was his parents who were working from home.
For much of the day, my husband and I were on Skype and Zoom calls with work, and a few times I would go downstairs to find him in floods of tears, even though he’s usually such a happy, fun loving child.
His very close bond and relationship with his grandparents was taken away overnight due to social restrictions and their vulnerability.
But it wasn’t long before things improved.
Embracing Tech to Stay Connected
We learnt how to Zoom and how to play and create our own Kahoot quizzes. My son’s Scout organisation were fantastic and arranged weekly Zoom meetings and there was even a virtual Zoom camp arranged.
The PE teacher at his school started a daily YouTube fitness session and I made the time to do this with him every day.
Then the school guitar lessons were arranged by the local authority on Zoom, which was a real boost and quite a cathartic experience, as it let him have fun and release some of those tensions.
We arranged Zoom calls with the grandparents and grandma even stepped in to help out with home learning, imparting her knowledge on Shakespeare to bring A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Life.
I also had to relax the rules slightly on the use of the PlayStation, as this really was a great way for my son to stay in touch with his friends.
Personally, I found the use of my Fitbit a real boost to help my morale and motivation and I finally got to grips with setting my goals and measures and signed up for a virtual race.
I also learnt how to stay connected with friends and colleagues on Strava. Simpson Millar set up a Movers club on Strava, which has been very motivational. You know you are not alone. I was really touched when a colleague checked in on me to see if I was alright after they noticed I hadn’t been out and about on our Strava Club for a while.
A New Understanding of My Clients’ Lives
I’m sure my experience is fairly typical of families all across the country, as many of us will have struggled with the isolation of lockdown.
But imagine how you would feel if your child suffered a life changing injury and you were cut off from your support network from family and friends.
My lockdown experience has really helped enhance my understanding of what the world of social isolation can really be like for the clients and families we support.
I was overwhelmed at the thought of how scared some seriously injured children who were in hospital must have been in the early days of lockdown. During this time, social restrictions meant only one parent could be with them in hospital, and this must have been extremely tough on the other parent and close family too.
During the first lockdown, we at Simpson Millar worked to raise funds and donate iPads to hospitals, so families could stay in touch with their loved ones in hospital, and I was very proud to support and be involved in this effort.
This was part of the Stay Together campaign, led by the inspirational nurse Leona Harris, and was at first focused on keeping Covid patients connected.
But we quickly realised the impact on children who couldn’t connect with all their parents and families in hospital, and were delighted to be able to donate iPads to some children’s units too.
Positive Response from Hospitals
We’ve had great feedback and been told that the iPads are being used for much more than just keeping in touch.
For example, patients are using apps to help with speech, language and cognitive function after sustaining a brain injury. This really has enriched my experience of just how great tech can be in the early rehabilitation process.
My own personal experience, the shared experience of the families we work with and the feedback from clinicians we donated the iPads to has hugely changed my view on the role of technology in improving people’s lives.
The Child Brain Injury Trust (CBIT), a charity we’re proud to support, has certainly recognised the benefits of technology, as it has launched its own app. This has opened up a whole new world to the families who might find it difficult and overwhelming to access the support they need, particularly in the current climate.
I strongly believe we all need to play our part to raise awareness and help children and their families get the vital support and tech they can benefit from in times of isolation.
It’s clear from all our experiences over the last year just what a big difference technology can make in helping isolated people live their lives.
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