Video-calls to Reduce Loneliness and Social Isolation Within Care Environments for Older People: An Implementation Study Using Collaborative Action Research

BMC Geriatr. 2018 Mar 2;18(1):62. doi: 10.1186/s12877-018-0746-y.

Abstract

Background: Older people in care may be lonely with insufficient contact if families are unable to visit. Face-to-face contact through video-calls may help reduce loneliness, but little is known about the processes of engaging people in care environments in using video-calls. We aimed to identify the barriers to and facilitators of implementing video-calls for older people in care environments.

Methods: A collaborative action research (CAR) approach was taken to implement a video-call intervention in care environments. We undertook five steps of recruitment, planning, implementation, reflection and re-evaluation, in seven care homes and one hospital in the UK. The video-call intervention 'Skype on Wheels' (SoW) comprised a wheeled device that could hold an iPad and handset, and used Skype to provide a free video-call service. Care staff were collaborators who implemented the intervention within the care-setting by agreeing the intervention, recruiting older people and their family, and setting up video-calls. Field notes and reflective diaries on observations and conversations with staff, older people and family were maintained over 15 months, and analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Four care homes implemented the intervention. Eight older people with their respective social contacts made use of video-calls. Older people were able to use SoW with assistance from staff, and enjoyed the use of video-calls to stay better connected with family. However five barriers towards implementation included staff turnover, risk averseness, the SoW design, lack of family commitment and staff attitudes regarding technology.

Conclusions: The SoW intervention, or something similar, could aid older people to stay better connected with their families in care environments, but if implemented as part of a rigorous evaluation, then co-production of the intervention at each recruitment site may be needed to overcome barriers and maximise engagement.

Keywords: Action; Care-settings; Collaborative; Elderly loneliness; Intervention; Isolation; Research; Skype; Video-calls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Communication*
  • Health Facilities
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Loneliness*
  • Social Isolation*
  • Videoconferencing*