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How texting has enhanced our loved ones’ aged care experience

<p>Jonathan Walsh, general manager [Asia-Pacific] of Esendex Australia shares his thoughts on the utility of texting in aged care. [Image via Shutterstock]</p>

Jonathan Walsh, general manager [Asia-Pacific] of Esendex Australia shares his thoughts on the utility of texting in aged care. [Image via Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • Guest contributor Jonathan Walsh is the general manager of Esendex Australia, the national branch of a multinational telecommunications company
  • Whether it’s appointment reminders, activity schedules or health alerts, SMS messages provide real-time delivery and ensure critical information reaches the intended recipients promptly
  • Cost-efficacy is yet another significant benefit to the inclusion of SMS communications in aged care, as traditional communication methods can be expensive — especially for care facilities operating on tight budgets

 

Words by Jonathan Walsh

OPINION — The landscape of Australia’s aged care has been rapidly evolving for years — with the focus on providing compassionate and efficient services for our elderly population. Amidst this evolution, digital communication technologies have emerged as a valuable asset in connecting caregivers, residents, and families.

Among these, short-messaging service/texting [SMS] communications is a powerful tool with immense potential to revolutionise the aged care industry. When utilised thoughtfully and responsibly, SMS can be a game-changer, offering numerous benefits for everyone involved.

SMS communication offers unmatched immediacy and reach — although, the perceived thought is that older Australians aren’t tech-savvy — yet, the vast majority own mobile phones. Some may prefer communicating through text messages, finding them more convenient and accessible than other digital platforms. By leveraging SMS communications, aged care providers can efficiently disseminate important information to residents and their families, ensuring they stay informed about events, updates, and changes in the care facility.

This also works extremely well on the flipside — Esendex has been working with a range of aged care providers for a number of years to take out the extensive labour time and cost when it comes to things, such as finding staff when someone calls in sick or even simple mental health support for staff.

Loneliness and social isolation present a serious public health issue for older people, as the Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS] recently found, with compelling evidence about the physical and mental health impact of these phenomena. SMS communication strengthens the sense of community within aged care facilities. Regular personalised SMS messages, even a simple ‘good morning’ or ‘thinking of you,’ can brighten their day and foster a sense of belonging. Engaging with residents through thoughtful messages can alleviate feelings of social detachment and boost their overall well-being. This can also facilitate communication between residents, helping them form friendships and support networks that enhance their quality of life.

Funds saved on expenses can be redirected to improving facilities, enhancing training programs, or investing in activities that enrich the lives of residents.

Following a plethora of recent news headlines, it is vital to prioritise the privacy and data security of residents and facilities. Aged care providers should ensure they have consent from residents and their families before sending any SMS messages. Data encryption and secure storage protocols must be implemented to safeguard personal information and protect older Australians, along with the providers themselves. Regarding recent data breaches and scam activity, there are some ways that older Australians and aged care providers can ensure their continued safety. Tech training programs are a great way to engage older people in aged care and make sure they understand the benefits and risks.

Simple tips to stay protected whilst connected may include: 

  • Knowing that no one should ask for your bank account details or personal documents over text or phone calls
  • Being sure to make anyone over the phone give adequate proof of their identity
  • If unsure of a person’s identity over the phone or their intentions, having the foresight to refer the conversation to a third party or respective carer

SMS holds great potential for aged care but it is essential to strike a balance between digital communication and human interaction. Technology should never replace the value of face-to-face engagement, but rather complement and enhance it. Aged care providers can use SMS as a tool to alter the quality of care and personal touch they provide, not as a substitute.

By harnessing the power of technology responsibly and with empathy, we can create a brighter future for our ageing population, where they receive the care and attention they truly deserve. As we embrace this digital evolution, let us remember that behind every text message is the potential to positively impact lives and make a real difference in the world of aged care.

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