Essex Sensory Awareness Week 6-12 July 2020
This week is Essex Sensory Awareness week and to celebrate, this year we have teamed up with our partner organisations within the Essex Sensory Community to share examples of how we have been able to support people with sensory impairments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Don’t forget to follow our hashtags #ESAW and #EssexSC to find social content throughout the week.
Due to COVID-19, one of BASIS’s clients, Bob, who is severely sight impaired and lives alone, began struggling with feelings of loneliness. Before the pandemic, Bob would regularly take the bus and attended social groups at the BASIS resource centre, but after several weeks of being at home and unable to socialise with his friends, he became incredibly isolated.
As Bob was following the Government guidelines around shielding, the BASIS team were unable to visit him at home to provide support, so he was added to their telephone befriending service. A member of staff from BASIS began calling him every week at the same time, spending time chatting and finding out how he was feeling and providing companionship.
This was a great way to pick up on any other challenges Bob was facing during this period and support him by connecting him to other services such as volunteers who could shop for him and audio books to keep him occupied. During one of the calls, Bob expressed that he was missing the keep fit class run by BASIS that he usually attends every week, so they worked together with the instructor to set up a virtual session using Zoom. Now Bob and some of their other visually impaired members, come together weekly to exercise and chat. Bob is now feeling more connected to others and less alone during this difficult time.
At the beginning of the lockdown, whilst telephoning round local members, Deafblind UK were made aware of a very elderly, deafblind gentleman who was living alone and was worried about not being able to get out to get food. He had already started rationing himself and, consequently, had not eaten properly for two days. In order to resolve the situation, the Deafblind UK team stepped in to get in touch with contacts at United in Kind who found a volunteer to go shopping for him and deliver it to his home. The volunteers even made sure they bought vegetarian food for the gentleman and refused any payment from him. Deafblind UK Outreach Officers were then able to liaise with his family members and put a more permanent solution in place for him.
Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, one of Essex Sight’s clients was on the waiting list for a sensory assessment and a cataract operation. He was feeling anxious about not being able to read his mail and sort out his finances. He had no family close by and was relying on neighbours to help and was feeling very low.
Essex Sight contacted him and offered a referral to the Essex Welfare Service to arrange food deliveries and provided some telephone support whilst he was referred to the Silverline telephone befriending service. They also provided doorstep assistance with correspondence and contacted his bank on his behalf to ensure he was provided with a statement in an accessible format. He says he is no longer anxious and feels happier and more in control of his finances.
Hearing Help Essex
Hearing help Essex were made aware of a 97-year-old woman who lives alone and lost her hearing aids in lockdown. Due to COVID-19 regulations, her local hospital was unable to make new ear moulds for her, so could not provide her with new hearing aids.
The woman’s niece contacted Hearing Help Essex for support as it was becoming increasingly challenging for anyone, including carers, to communicate with her. Without hearing aids, she was unable to hear the TV or radio, which had been her only source of information and company during lockdown, so was beginning to feel isolated and depressed.
Hearing Help Essex were able to provide advice and guidance to woman’s niece to discuss the issues and potential solutions. As neither the woman or her niece could afford to purchase new equipment, Hearing Help Essex were able to loan out some equipment with headphones to help the woman with her communication difficulties until lockdown eased and she could be fitted with new hearing aids. One of the Hearing Help team drove to the woman’s house and delivered the equipment to her doorstep.
The woman’s niece called three weeks later to let Hearing Help Essex know that she had sadly passed away, but that she wanted to thank the team, as the equipment had made such a huge difference to her wellbeing and had meant that she didn’t feel lonely during her final days.
Royal Association for Deaf People
One of RAD’s clients is profoundly Deaf with literacy issues, and she is also a single parent of four children.
Due to the lockdown restriction, RAD changed their services from face-to-face to remote, and during one appointment, the client raised concerns about her youngest daughter who had a cough and a temperature. She also stated that her eldest child had friends visiting and it became apparent that she was not aware of the COVID-19.
The RAD team explained the situation to her and informed her that some of her child’s symptoms matched those of COVID-19. They supported her to contact NHS 111 interpreters via her iPad, who provided her with appropriate instructions, including to self-isolate.
Support 4 Sight
Support 4 Sight has managed to continue producing their regular Uttlesford Talking News Service throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, as one of their volunteers has been producing it at home with the help of all his family, this has enabled their listeners to continue to be informed about local issues throughout the pandemic and lockdown.
Their normal befriending service has also been increased during the lockdown period and received many referrals from other organisations, including a lady who had just come out of hospital following an operation due to stomach issues, who is gradually losing her sight and felt socially isolated and lonely as she had to shield as a result of her recovery from illness and hasn’t got any family locally. They managed to get her shopping organised and even arranged transport for her to revisit hospital for a follow up appointment after she suffered some complications to her surgery.
ECL Sensory Service
Transcription app to support with lip reading
Due to the increased usage of facemasks during Covid-19, people who are hard of hearing or Deaf have been unable to rely on lip-reading as a form of communication.
As a Sensory Service, we have been made aware of individuals who are experiencing increasing difficulties, including when conversing with their GPs, hospital and care staff, and the impact of this loss of communication can, at best be frustrating, and at worst be dangerous.
After looking into a range of solutions, we have discovered the app, Live Transcribe, which is available on both Android and Apple and can be downloaded directly onto your mobile phone to transcribe speech to text.
This gives individuals control over their own communication and doesn’t rely on the other person making an adjustment other than speaking within range of the phone so the microphone can pick up their voice. We have tested it, and have found it to be efficient, even when users are wearing a facemask and 2 meters apart.
The following Youtube video demonstrates how the app works:
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We would, as always, be interested to hear about any other solutions that the sensory community are currently using, so please do get in touch!
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