September 15, 2020

Staying in touch with loved ones

The COVID-19 pandemic has made spending time with loved ones challenging for everybody, especially those being cared for in hospitals and aged care facilities.

John Wakim, Recreation Officer at Bundoora Centre, has created a new program to help families stay connected to their hospitalised loved ones during this difficult time.

He initiated the program, ‘Staying in touch with loved ones’ in July this year, using Skype video calls whilst current visiting restrictions are in place.

“With visitor restrictions in place, families aren’t able to visit for safety reasons. But even if they can’t physically be with their loved one in hospital, our recreation service is working hard to ensure they can still be connected,” he said.

“This program was made possible with the help of Northern Health Foundation, from an approved grant for new equipment for Bundoora Recreational Therapy. Part of the grant was to purchase tablets for our clients on the wards,” he added.

John is very passionate about this new program and helping families in our community stay in touch.

“Video calls help keep patients engaged and a part of their loved ones’ lives. They can still see their grandchildren, have that morning coffee with their friends and be virtually present for memorable moments like birthdays,” John said.

“It allows patients to remain physically distant, but emotionally present and can help patients cope with this pandemic.”

The wards collect contact details of patients and families who would like to participate. John calls the family first to assist them with any technical issues, ensuring they have the required technology and internet connection at home. Once organised, John will go to see the patient and facilitate the call for them.

For patients recovering, John says maintaining a social connection with loved ones can enhance their overall wellbeing.

“To see their loved ones, it improves their mood and they are reassured that their loved ones are OK – because patients are worried about their families too, along with their families being worried about them.”

John has been working closely with the Nurse Unit Managers and their staff at Bundoora Centre to get this up and running and the program has proven very popular already, receiving fantastic feedback from appreciative families.

Barbara (pictured above) and her son Michael are extremely grateful for this service.

“It’s the only opportunity I’ve been able to see my mother, so I’ve found the calls extremely useful and beneficial,” Michael explained.

“It’s a wonderful service because it’s really catering for the needs of families. Families are finding it very difficult at the moment so it really helps – to be able to see someone in their environment and look at their face – you can pick up on how they’re going,” he said.

“John does a wonderful job in organising it and makes sure you understand how to use the technology. My mother has commented on what a highly valuable member of the team he is,” Michael added.

John facilitates approximately 10 video calls a day and there is currently a waitlist due to the popularity of the program.

“We’ve been very busy because families are missing their loved ones, so they are very grateful and it’s been really positive. We are also now providing this service in the Kath Atkinson Wing (KAW) where patient stays can be a bit longer,” John said.

Even when visiting restrictions are lifted, John says he hopes to continue this program in future to help families that, for various reasons, may not be able to visit.

Featured Image: Patient, Barbara video calling her son Michael. Patchwork quilt generously donated by North of the Yarra Quilters Guild.