CLARE’S four community hospitals are among the beneficiaries of a donation of mobile devices from singer Niall Horan.
The star pledged €100,000 specifically to support older people and staff in public long term residential care to help them stay in touch with their families. The tablets purchased with the funding will be available to residents at HSE-run facilities in Ennistymon, Kilrush, Ennis and Raheen, Scariff.
Niall was inspired to do so when his cousins Patricia and Caroline sent him a photo of them talking on the phone to their granny outside her window and then decided to teach her how to use FaceTime.
Seeing the positive impact it’s had on his granny inspired him to do the same for other older people.
“So many elderly people are feeling vulnerable and isolated now more than ever,” said Niall. “Thousands of families have needed to be pulled apart, including my own. Not only does this initiative bring them back together, face to face in the short term, it’s a positive development for the future too. Thank you to the HSE for getting this off the ground. I’m very proud to work with them on it.”
Paul Reid HSE CEO said, “I’ve been using video apps to keep in touch with my granddaughter so I know first-hand the impact Niall’s generous offer will have. Niall’s contribution is also special as it will be used long after we emerge from Covid-19.”
Michael Fitzgerald, HSE Assistant National Director, Older People and Palliative Care – Strategy said: “We know having family visitors is an essential part of an older residents well-being, the impact of social isolation and separation from families can be particularly hard for older people. We will provide funding for wifi connection, and HSE ICT will provide technical support.”
The HSE and technology partners – Vodafone, Samsung and Avaie worked together on this special initiative so that the mobile devices have video and messaging apps like Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp available staff and residents.
The impact of social distancing on this group of older people has been considerable. A sense of social connection is a fundamental human need and it impacts on our social, emotional and physical well-being. Given the visitor restrictions as part of the Covid-19 crisis, the lack of social connections with family and loved ones, can contribute to declines in physical and psychological health. Given these residents are generally our frailest older people, new ways to keep communication and connections between residents and their families are now required.
Niall’s pledge of support is one of many that the HSE has received to support its services during the current Covid-19 crisis. Every aspect of Irish life has been affected by Covid-19 and the provision of this technology for long stay units will help to lessen the impact of the social isolation it has brought about. The HSE has 130 long stay units across the country providing long term residential care to over 7,000 people.
Infection control processes will be carried out when using tablets and additional infection control measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic will be strictly adhered to.