The coronavirus outbreak has paused many things, including Breathe Easy group meetings. Teresa, from BE Nottingham West, shares how her group has embraced technology to keep supporting members.
It wasn’t a surprise when the British Lung Foundation asked Breathe Easy groups not to meet. After all, the health and wellbeing of members are of the utmost importance. But we know how valuable our meetings are, so we’ve found new ways to stay in touch.
We already had a Facebook group with about 90 members that we use to share local information. Now it’s also a great way to stay connected. I use WhatsApp with my friends - so I created a group for BE group members. It wasn’t easy for some people to get set up, but their families helped. Some of our oldest members, who hadn’t made it onto Facebook before, are now in the WhatsApp group! We use it to chat and share funny videos to keep everyone smiling.
Every Saturday morning our exercise instructor runs an online chair-based exercise class and I’m helping our singing instructor get online as well. My next challenge will be setting up a weekly virtual meeting!
We’re also in the process of starting a buddy system, introduced to us by BLF group support officers. The plan is that once a week we set up phone calls between members who aren’t online. I think it’s a great idea to help our members who aren’t online stay connected.
We were very lucky last year to get help from our local Connect service. Each month, a representative came to our meeting to help members with their phones and tablets, and even to help them set up computers at home. Now they’re going to arrange telephone support to group members who are struggling to get online.
In our January meeting this year, we had a talk on the NHS app and how helpful it can be. This was very timely, as the NHS app is proving to be a valuable tool in current circumstances for ordering medication and checking your symptoms.
It’s early days but so far, the mood is positive and supportive: the recent good weather has helped! The group members are busy with jigsaws, gardening and knitting. One of our group is making an epic voyage through the bookshelves in her living room! Many are using FaceTime to keep in touch with their family.
The support has been brilliant. One member told me she feels her family is growing, which is lovely to hear. Everyone knows they can ring me if they need help or a chat, and if I can’t help, the community group can. We’re all trying to stay positive in this difficult time.
My best advice for other groups is to keep in touch with regular emails, and share links to useful things online like the British Lung Foundation exercise handbook and online classes like our chair-based exercise group. If you’re not sure how to get online, ask your family or friends to talk you through setting up Facebook and WhatsApp, and if you don’t succeed the first time keep trying! Once you’re all set up, stay connected and ask for any help you need.
Original Source: British Lung Foundation