Academics launch review of digital tech programme tackling social isolation in care homes

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Working in collaboration with the Scottish Government’s Technology Enabled Care (TEC) Programme and the Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre (DHI), a team of academics from the University of Stirling has been funded to study the success of a pioneering digital inclusion programme rolled out in care homes during the pandemic.

Led by Dr Grant Gibson, a lecturer and researcher in the fields of dementia care, the project will evaluate the ‘Connecting Residents in Scotland’s Care Homes’ (CRSCH) initiative, which was launched in November 2020 with the aim of equipping all care homes in Scotland with digital devices, connectivity, training and support to tackle social isolation and help residents enjoy the benefits of online access.

Photograph of academic Grant Gibson. A man looks straight to camera. He has dark rimmed square glasses on, dark short hair and is wearing a blue shirt.

Dr Gibson will lead the project

The academics, will assess the project’s benefits, its impact on care home residents’ lives and identify any improvements on health and wellbeing.

Dr Gibson, who is based in Stirling’s Faculty of Social Sciences, said: “Nowhere have the challenges and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic been felt more acutely than in care homes, by residents and their staff. On top of the increased risks from contracting the virus, the long-term social isolation felt by residents due to the prolonged, continuing social distancing measures, abruptly cut residents off from friends and family, impacting their physical, emotional and cognitive health as well as quality of life and wellbeing.

“As the restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic lift, it is likely that at least some elements of the switch to greater use of digital platforms to support social interaction among care home residents will become permanent.  Therefore, there is a clear need to evaluate whether the programme was successful, and to learn the wider lessons regarding the mainstreaming, scaling up and sustainability of this programme to inform wider initiatives supporting digital connectedness and inclusion of care home residents in the future.”

Dr Gibson will work alongside University of Stirling colleagues Dr Louise McCabe, also an expert in dementia, and Drs Carolyn Wilson-Nash and Ismini Pavlopoulou, from the University’s Management School.