A National Carers Week special: ‘A blessing in disguise’ – Zoom parties in lockdown bring sisters closer than ever

With National Carers Week commencing on 10 October, we caught up with Megan who found new, creative ways to continue supporting her sister Andrea in lockdown, who lives in Yooralla’s residential accommodation.

Megan was initially concerned about not being able to see and support Andrea in person due to COVID-19 restrictions.

While many people shifted to various online platforms to stay connected with friends and family in lockdown, it wasn’t a straightforward change for the sisters.

“Andrea is minimally verbal, so conversation doesn’t ignite her. Catching up on Zoom in a traditional way wouldn’t work. I had to come up with some creative ideas on how to engage Andrea, cheer her up and support her through lockdowns,” said Megan.

Megan knew how much Andrea loved and responded to music, so she decided to turn their Zoom catch ups into regular “dancing and singing parties”.

“She comes to life reciting nursery rhymes or belting out ABBA tunes.

“But music from our childhood is a particular hit with Andrea. When it comes on, you can just see emotions hit her – her eyes widen and she normally jumps up to dance, and we always find it hard not to giggle throughout.

"Turns out Andrea engages so much more enthusiastically through the screen versus face-to-face, so we actually get a lot more of her personality. It really shines through the screen! It’s been a real blessing in disguise,’” she said.

Megan plans the music in advance and sets up an iPad behind her, so Andrea can see the video clips too.

“All three – the music, the video and a familiar face there – bring it all to life. Andrea loves it so much that it’s almost better than seeing me in person. Our mum Jan also likes to pop in to have a boogie with us,” says Megan.

Efi Katiforis, Service Manager where Andrea lives, says that COVID-19 restrictions have created opportunities for families to connect and meet in a different way.

“It’s the unique ways that some of our customers are connecting with their families, and the creativity involved, that makes it so exciting for them.

“Andrea always really looks forward to her Zoom parties with her sister and she just glows with happiness afterwards. I really see the positive affect it has on her wellbeing. It’s just so brilliant,” says Efi.

Megan says she is grateful to the staff at Andrea’s accommodation who support them to make these Zoom parties a regular event.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do. Even when lockdowns are not in place, we’ll continue to Zoom anyway because it’s so much fun and it makes my sister so happy!”’

Carers make an enormous contribution to the lives of people with disability and National Carers Week provides a great opportunity to recognise and celebrate them.

Carers are people who provide unpaid care and support to family members and friends with disability, mental health condition or terminal illness. There are more than 2.65 million unpaid carers in Australia. Learn more about National Carers Week and how you can get involved.

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