We all love a good emoji. Billie Kempton, aged 80, is discovering the joys of the expressive icons (the masked face is her recent favourite) thanks to a new program helping to keep older carers connected.
'I’m like a kid in a candy shop with these emojis,' Billie said. Play aside, the use of a new iPad and online training has been a lifeline for Billie and her husband Laurie, also 80, who has Lewy Body Dementia.
Billie has been supported by VMCH’s Carer Support Program as Laurie’s full-time carer for four years. She is one of 10 older people who care for a child or a spouse with a disability participating in the program, jointly-run by VMCH and YourLink – an organisation focussed on the digital inclusion of Australian seniors.
'This program is the most wonderful thing,' Billie says. 'You feel a bit left out these days… I don’t understand a lot of the modern things that are going on and I think this is going to open up so many different avenues for us. It’s an incredible program and I’m so grateful, I can’t tell you.'
Weekly training sessions with YourLink tech gurus have helped Billie to connect with family interstate via FaceTime and catch up with fellow carers supported by VMCH via Zoom.
For Laurie, communication is vital. 'The first time we were locked down he was cut off from everything and he really aged dreadfully,' Billie said. 'But he’s been joining in the iPad training sessions and it really inspires him. He actually picked the iPad and was having a go himself, playing some dementia games, which is a huge step for him.'
VMCH CEO Sonya Smart said keeping the organisation’s clients and residents connected through the COVID-19 pandemic was vital to their mental wellbeing.
'We’re obviously working very hard to keep the people we support physically safe from the virus, but we’ve also had to adapt and become innovative in various ways to keep people engaged and connected. We appreciate the support from our donors and supporters, such as this Be Connected grant, to help us in our mission.'
For Billie, the timing of the program couldn’t be better.
'People reaching out to each other at this time is a really important thing to do and if there’s anyone out there who’s caring and needs support, I would urge you to contact VMCH.'
This program was made possible thanks to a $5,000 Be Connected grant from the Federal Government, aimed to help older Australians stay digitally connected. If you need carer support, please call VMCH on 1300 698 624.
Melbourne Catholic30 January 2023
Fiona Basile24 January 2023