In this guest blog, Anna Harrison, York CVS’ Dementia Action Coordinator, tells Social Vision of a project she runs facilitating a lifeline for connecting women with dementia across the UK. It’s a ‘virtual network’ , an idea we all might be using from now on.
We’re living in strange times at the moment – the likes of which I’ve never experienced in my lifetime. And for those of us working in the voluntary sector the way we work is having to change significantly.
How do you continue to support those you work with when gatherings are no longer allowed and social distancing is being advised?
By being creative with your thinking – that’s how.
Last year, I was asked to facilitate a pilot project for women with dementia across the UK; connecting with each other through the online platform, Zoom.
Ten women, of different ages and at different stages of their dementia journey, meeting online at 5pm every Monday for friendship and support. They called themselves the Zoomettes, and the group became a lifeline to them.
The 12 week pilot was so successful, we’ve met every Monday since.
Each week, I email an invite with a link to the meeting, and just before 5pm they click on the link and away we go! We’ve set ground rules as a group and we hold up our yellow cards when we want to speak (or as you can see, a phone, a glasses case or a home-made sign!).
Most weeks everyone has lots to say, but sometimes people prefer to just come on to listen, and that’s fine too.
My fellow facilitator Aimee and I have become great friends through Zoom. We’d never met before we started working together (she lives in Brighton and I’m in York), but we found that you can really build rapport through a computer screen.
All the women love knowing that the weekly call is happening, and they’re guaranteed to see a friendly face (or 8!) for support and laughter.
There’s no need to arrange transport or worry about finding the venue; they can just get themselves a cuppa and get on the call and if they’re tired or feeling under the weather they can prop themselves up in bed and still join in.
As part of our pilot, we co-produced a guide and a YouTube video to show how it all works, and they can be found here:
Of course, this isn’t the answer for everyone but it’s a great option for anyone with access to a laptop, tablet or smart phone who wants to continue to meet with their support system.
We all know the wellbeing benefits of social connections, and this is one way to connect over the coming weeks and months.