Australian Unity has launched a new service for home care customers that enables workers to provide non-contact care to its customers, while keeping an eye on their wellbeing.
The Care Companion phone service offers unscripted, personal calls to vulnerable clients.
It gives them an opportunity to have a cup of tea over the phone with a worker and chat about their day, the latest current affairs or whatever’s on their mind.
In the meantime, it gives workers an opportunity to assess the client’s health and wellbeing, conduct vulnerability assessments and link them to other telehealth services if necessary.
Companionship and connection
Care worker Kerry Jackson has been delivering the service from Australian Unity’s Lithgow office.
“I have spoken to some interesting and lonely people, and they are all incredibly grateful for the support,” she says.
“It can be very isolating at home. One customer I spoke to told me his family are overseas and can’t get back to Australia to visit him. He sees no one, so he looks forward to the time he has speaking with me.
“We talk and he tells me all about his life as an architect, travelling the country designing hospitals and specialist medical facilities. These people are just wanting companionship and connection. It goes a long way to helping their mental wellbeing.”
New models of care
It’s the first in new suite of digital services that Australian Unity is looking to offer customers during Covid-19 and beyond. Trials are also underway to provide virtual group support services, such as trivia, cooking classes and exercise sessions.
Executive general manager of home & disability services Nick O’Callaghan says the Care Companion initiative came in response to signs that clients were cancelling face to face services because of fears about coronavirus.
“It was evident early on that many of our customers were unsure about continuing with their home care service during the pandemic,” Mr O’Callaghan said.
“Cancellations were beginning to accelerate and there were signs from both customers and our own care workers, that they weren’t always comfortable with in-home visits.”
He says, concerned about the drop off in services, the provider started making phone calls to some of its most vulnerable customers in March.
“These calls were so well received, that the decision was made to formalise the service,” he said.
The service was quickly piloted in northern and metropolitan Hunter regions of NSW.
Sales Enablement Manager Michael Tzortzis says clients love the service.
“The simple act of making a telephone call and offering guidance, support – and sometimes just an ear – brought such positive feedback,” he says.
Mr O’Callaghan says while the initiative arose as a solution to conditions created by Covid-19, it has long term potential as a way of enhancing services.
“Customers have adopted technology so much faster than we would have ever imagined. Care workers too, are enjoying exploring new ways to interact and provide much valued care and companionship,” he says.
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