Digital skills for carers
Breaking down digital skills into a meaningful guide has been somewhat of a challenge, and where do you start when there are so many services, so many types of technology, so many new devices being launched. It’s no wonder that many of us struggle to keep up with the pace of change.
Our experience at Mobilise is that everyone is capable of using technology to improve their lives. We’ve seen it alleviate isolation, through online community and conversation, speed up access to support and make everyday life easier.
To provide a guide to cater to all, we’ve broken it down into three sections: beginner, intermediate and expert - and rather than provide an exhaustive guide we’ve focussed on services that make a difference to Carers.
Keeping in touch with family and friends
If this, then that
But first - a word on online security.
Staying secure online
Generally most security breaches occur because either: someone gets access to your email account, you disclose information by mistake to ill-meaning third party (also referred to as a phishing scam) or a combination of the two.
Our top tips:
Check the links in an email to understand if they are legitimate
This stops you mistakenly giving information away
Secure your email account/s with two factor authentication
This makes it exceptionally difficult for someone to access your accounts
Keep your devices and software up to date
This stops hackers from accessing your devices with malicious programmes
There are other ways you could be at risk and you can find out more about how to protect yourselves from the National Cyber Security Centre.
Digital Skills for beginners
Perhaps you have an email account, but don’t access the internet regularly. Or you have a smartphone but don’t use much more than the text and phone functions, this is the section for you.
In general online services will require you to have a password and each one may have different requirements. For some you might need to have numbers present and in others you might need special characters e.g. ! & % £
You should always have passwords that are unique to each new service you set up, so that people can’t access all of your services with the same one. But this can be exceptionally hard to remember - particularly if you also need to do this for the person you are caring for too!
With that in mind a password manager is a great piece of kit, all your passwords are stored in one place and you just have to remember one master password to access them. Here are some options:
1. 1Password - Best for Carers
This service costs around £5 per month, but for that money you can access the service on nearly any device and crucially there is a family function which allows you to share some or all of your passwords, great for emergencies or if you need a hand and can’t get to a computer. https://1password.com/families/
2. Best free option - Last pass
A great option for those on a budget. Whilst it doesn’t have the family functions of the other two services, it’s still a really great option and it’s completely free! https://www.lastpass.com/
3. Best for additional protection - Keeper
Keeper is around £44/year, for that you get similar family functionality to 1Password, but also some neat other features such as help creating strong passwords and alerts if one of your passwords has somehow been breached so you can change it straight away. https://www.keepersecurity.com/en_GB
Keeping in touch with family and friends
Staying in touch with family and friends is one of the biggest gains of modern technology, video calls in a tap or a click are now ubiquitous, but working out the best option for you can be tricky.
Chances are that if you want to keep in touch with friends and family they might suggest a service to you that they are already using. This could be one of these companies or services:
Facebook and Facebook Messenger
All of them have their benefits and drawbacks and it is helpful to think about how you prefer to communicate. Would you prefer text based communications or video? One to one or in a group? You should also think about your devices. If you don’t have a smartphone some of them won’t be available to you.
Here’s a handy grid to work out which might work best:
Company or service
Group or individual communication?
Text, video or audio communication?
Do you need a smartphone?
Do you need to set up an account?
A great default option. A text can nearly always be relied upon.
Your mobile phone plan will need to included SMS or you will be charged per message.
No - you can use a tablet, laptop or desktop computer.
Yes - you will need a facebook account.
Great for staying in touch with other carers, or for finding groups like Mobilise!
An awesome resource. Perfect for creating a group to prepare for the unexpected.
You will need a smartphone with a data connection or a wifi connection
No - you can use it on most devices
No - not if someone invites you to join a video call
We use this for our Online Virtual Cuppas - it’s a great way of uniting people on whatever device they prepare.
You will need a good internet connection either using mobile data or wifi.
Digital Skills for intermediates
You've mastered how you communicate and have a variety of internet accounts that enable you to do what you want. Perhaps you regularly shop online. You feel comfortable with apps and own a smartphone. If that sounds familiar... onwards!
For those of you that find some devices tricky to use, more and more people are turning to voice enabled devices. These are simply devices which you can speak too, either to ask for information or ask them to do something.
Whilst these devices excel at playing music when you ask them or letting you know what the weather is, they are also good for setting up reminders or they can give you the ability for a call to be made, if you or the person you care for is incapacitated.
The low cost of these devices is also a real benefit and means you can have them in multiple rooms. The best devices are sold from Amazon and Google and who you already have an account with is largely the biggest factor when choosing.
Best for shopping - Amazon’s Alexa
There are a variety of different devices available starting from £39 some include screens which can be very handy. You’ll need an Amazon account but the benefits are significant, for example immediate ordering of supplies e.g. “Alexa order more toilet roll” or “Alexa add aspirin to my medications list”
There are also a wide range of useful tools available on the device which could help carers.
Best for information - Google Nest
Google offers a similar range of devices starting from £49 all powered by Google’s search system which means you are never far from the right answer. To get the most from Google’s nest product you’ll need a Google account and it will help a lot if you use Google’s calendar and email as well.
Similar useful tools for carers to Amazon Alexa are also available on Google Nest.
One to watch - Apple Homepod
We can’t fully recommend this yet as Apple’s digital assistant Siri is still some way behind that of Google and Amazon. However if you are tied up in the Apple ecosystem of devices you might find it a useful addition to have. Commands like “Siri call Mum” will work really well, but it fails when asking for relatively straightforward information. If you think it’s for you take a look at their devices.
Online learning for any task
As carers we often find ourselves needing to take on new skills and become good at them quickly. When you’re not relying on the advice of the Mobilise community here are a few places to turn to.
For all your questions - Youtube
Youtube is the world’s second biggest search engine after Google. And you’ll find the answer to nearly anything. Need to know how to pop a door back on its hinges, clear a blocked drain or safely turn someone in bed - you’ll find lots of answers to look through.
learn something new - Skillshare
If you’d like to take up a new hobby or learn something new, the folks at Skillshare have you covered. They use video tutorials from experts all over the world to teach you new skills. You could relax and learn how to paint, learn how to start a new business, or even try your hand at interior design!
Learn from a celebrity expert - MasterClass
Perhaps you have always wanted to learn from the very best, if so look no further. MasterClass brings you cooking lessons from Gordon Ramsay, photography with Annie Leibovitz, acting with Samuel L Jackson or learn how to write the next bestselling thriller with Dan Brown! It’s an amazing lineup, and it comes at a price but for £14/month you’ll be spending your time learning in some very good company. P.s they also cover dog training, gardening, magic and much more!
Digital skills for experts
If you’ve grown up with the internet or use it all day every day. You’ll be looking for a few ways to start to challenge yourself. Thankfully infinite customisation and automation are very real and not that difficult!
Switching off lights with a switch is soooo 2019. The world of the smart-thing is here. From smart lights, to smart fridges and smart kettles you can now get nearly anything as a connected device.
When you start to combine smart tech with assistants like Google, Siri (Apple) and Alexa (Amazon) you really start to see the benefits. Increasingly companies like Ikea are bringing a range of options through at reasonable prices. With all this in play you can start to get some basics in your life started using routines. For example you could have a routine set up where at a particular time in the morning the blinds open, the weather is read to you alongside any reminders or things you need to do that day.
If you have found a great way to use smart home technology for your caring situation please let us know - email@example.com
If this then that - IFTTT
Time to connect your digital worlds together in a few clicks! IFTTT is an amazing service which allows your different account ecosystems to talk to each other (sort of). You could sync the reminders from your Alexa with those on your iPhone, get a notification when the international space station goes over your home, use it to log when you medication is taken so you always know how much you have in your supplies or receive a notification when something essential at Tesco goes on offer.
The number of connections is amazing. Sign up is free and well worth having a play with.
If you have a great tip for digital skills for carers, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org