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Saturday, 6 June 2020

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Vulnerable people able to see families for first time in months thanks to iPad donations

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A 90-year-old care home resident from Cumbria has told of her joy after being able to see her husband again after over a month thanks to the donation of iPads to care homes.

Gwenie, who is 90, hadn’t been able to see her husband Bill since the beginning of April when her care home was closed to visitors due to the coronavirus lockdown. Thanks to the donation of a second-hand iPad she can now see him and their two sons every day by video calls.

Gwenie is one of many care home residents who has been helped by Connect the Love, a new charitable initiative which connects vulnerable people to their loved ones through video calls, by donating iPads to care homes and hospitals across the country.

Connect the Love’s mission is to fight loneliness and provide a way for those most affected by isolation to see their families again. The organisation has already distributed over 45 iPads and other devices to care homes and hospitals across the country in just the first two weeks of operation, meaning residents and patients can see and speak to their loved ones for the first time in many weeks.

90-year-old Gwenie moved into St George’s Care Home just before the lockdown. When the home had to close to visitors she desperately missed her daily visits from family but now, thanks to Connect the Love and with the help of the care home staff, the video calls have become an essential part of Gwenie and her family’s daily routine.

Gwenie said:

“I speak to my husband Bill and our sons Colin and Adam on the iPad every day at 11.15. We talk about what we are doing and just have a general chat which is such a comfort. I hadn’t used an iPad before coming to the home, but it’s a great way to stay in touch with family, who can’t visit at the moment. It has been a real joy to be able to speak to them and to feel connected again.”

Sophie Fisher, a carer at St George’s Care Home, said:

“Gwenie had been feeling low since moving into the home just over a month ago, but the Connect the Love iPad has helped her a lot. She now sits in the lounge with the other residents and her family have noticed the difference to her mood too since they’ve been able to speak and see her on the tablet. Having to be closed to visitors has been upsetting for all our residents, but the iPads from Connect the Love have really helped. Being able to see and speak to family has boosted the mood and wellbeing of residents at such a daunting time.”

Gwenie’s sons Colin and Adam said:

“Our Skype calls have been essential to us all. To be able to talk and see Mum, when the circumstances don’t allow us to physically be there, it’s become an important part of our daily routine. Having the ability to Skype call has made this uncertain time easier on us all, we enjoy our chats and can see that Mum does too. The staff being there while she talks to us is fantastic too, as Mum interacts with them also, boosting her social interaction and being comforted when needed.”

Connect the Love donated iPads

Connect the Love was launched by Lucy Russo, who devised Connect the Love as a way to give vulnerable and digitally unconnected individuals a way to see and speak to their loved ones. Lucy has a busy day job in the venture capital sector but set up the initiative in her spare time, so moved was she by the inability for those in care homes to see their families and friends.

The charity has now received a £5,000 donation from the CareTech Foundation to fund over 100 extra devices. The Foundation has also agreed to provide wider support to the new initiative to support its development and promote its work.

Lucy Russo, who started the initiative, commented:

“During this difficult time, no one should suffer from feelings of loneliness. Staying connected to my family and friends through video calls has a real positive effect on my mood, and to some extent lessens the distance between us. Through Connect the Love I’m determined to support our most vulnerable and people who have previously fallen through the gaps. The testimonials we are hearing so far show that the initiative is having a really positive effect and helping tackle a problem that existed before Covid-19. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support I’ve received to date and I hope with more support we can Connect the Love all across the country.”

Jonathan Freeman, Chief Executive of the CareTech Foundation, commented:

“At such a difficult time for the care sector, people like Lucy are an inspiration to us all and the work she is doing to connect care residents with their friends and family is incredible. The CareTech Foundation is so proud to be able to be involved with Connect the Love, alongside our other support for the care sector at this incredibly difficult time.”

Donations to Connect the Love to help connect vulnerable people with their families can be made at: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/displayCharityCampaignPage.action?charityCampaignUrl=connectthelove

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