We’re way past floppy disks

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

8-inch-floppyIt’s amazing to me that my kids are going to grow up not knowing what it’s like to live in a non-digital world.  I still remember when my dad brought home our very first (enormous) computer and we used floppy disks to run programs on it.  Floppy disks back then were, in fact, floppy — you had to be careful not to get fingerprints or dust on them lest they become completely useless.  It took ages to boot that computer up, yet we were mesmerized by graphics made up of only dashes, periods, and letters.

Nowadays, you give a 18-month old an iPhone and they will hand it back to you an hour later with six new apps, an updated screen background, and a witty post on your Facebook page.

Yes, technology has come a very long way.  But it certainly has its advantages. And we’ve seen some of them here at HPCCR.

It started several years ago when a former employee (a social worker) began taking her iPad with her on visits.  She downloaded a few apps she thought would resonate with her dementia patients, given their interests and backgrounds.  Well, the results were simply awesome.  Formerly non-responsive patients talked, sang, or moved their fingers over the iPad when enticed by the device.  It was as if a long-lost part of their brain, previously sleeping, had suddenly woken up.  Families watched in amazement as their loved ones regained some of their old, well-loved personality, if only for a few minutes.

Thanks to this innovative social worker, we realized how impactful technology could be with our dementia patients.  And now in 2015, all HPCCR social workers have iPads.  Having this tool has opened up a world of options to build relationships with patients who struggle to communicate.  The ones who seem like they’re not there.  The ones with family members who desperately miss them and would cherish even a few moments with the mom or dad or grandparent they used to know.

That’s why these stories make me so happy.  Connections are being made here on so many different levels — social worker to patient, patient to their past, patient to their present, family members to loved ones.  These visits are true gifts; snippets of time to hold on to when the veil falls back down and silence returns.

So here are just a few of the stories I’ve heard recently.  I plan to keep sharing them as they come to me, by the way, in case these aren’t enough to fill up your “good feelings” reservoir.  So be on the lookout.

Amazing Grace
“Mrs. H can’t really speak.  Her words are usually mumbled and no one can understand her.  One day I showed her the kaleidoscope app on the iPad.  She had difficulty at first using her finger to move the picture.  But then, as the colors would change, she started to hum Amazing Grace using the colors she was seeing as the words of the song.  So I then played Amazing Grace for her on the iPad and she just closed her eyes and listened while tears formed in her eyes.”

Hello Central, Give Me Heaven
“A patient’s husband told me his wife wasn’t really talking one day.  I asked if there was anything that would help me connect to her, such as a favorite song.  He said she used to really like Hello Central, Give Me Heaven by June Carter’s grandmother, Maybelle Carter.  I pulled up the song on my iPad, along with a picture of Maybelle Carter.  The patient took the iPad from me and sang every word.  When I told her daughter what had happened, she couldn’t believe it.”

Helping families too
“I was visiting a patient one day at an independent living community.  As I was going into the building, a gentleman approached me.  He said, “I know you.  You took care of my mom.”  He gave me her name and it triggered my memory.  He then said, “I knew it was you.  You’re the one who brought that iPad and you would play music for her each visit.”  I was so amazed because he chased me down in the parking lot to say thank you for doing that for his mom.  I always knew using the iPad was important for our patients but I learned that day it leaves a lasting impression on our families too.”

All I can say is thank goodness for technology and iPads.  And thank goodness for the breakthroughs our social workers have been able to make with these ingenious, small devices.  Without them, our social workers would be lugging horrendously large computers and dusty floppy disks on their patient visits.  Who knows how often those things would break down?  And then they’d have to find an 18-month old to fix them.

For more information about our specialized dementia program, visit hpccr.org or call us at 704.375.0100. 

Explore posts in the same categories: awareness, dementia, hospice

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