Digital Skills For Carers
Breaking down digital skills into a meaningful guide has been somewhat of a challenge. Where do we start when there are so many services and types of technology to keep up with? 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 break barriers to isolation, through online community and conversation, speed up access to support and make life easier.
To provide a guide to cater to all, we’ve broken it down into three sections:
Keeping in touch with family and friends
If this, then that
But first - a word on online security.
How to stay secure online
First, let’s quickly go over the basics. 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 known as a ‘phishing scam’) or a combination of the two.
💡Our top tips for staying secure online:
1. Check the links in an email to understand if they are legitimate
Watch this short video to help identify which links are likely to be from a scammer. This stops us from mistakenly giving information away.
2. Secure your email account/s with two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication is a two-step process a system takes to verify that it is us signing into our accounts. This can include sending a code to our phone or an alternative email address we chose to include, making it difficult for someone to access our accounts.
3. Keep your devices and software up to date
This stops hackers from accessing our devices with malicious programmes.
There are other ways we could be at risk and we can find out more about how to protect ourselves from the National Cyber Security Centre.
Digital skills for beginners
Perhaps we have an email account, but don’t access the internet regularly. Or we have a smartphone but don’t use much more than the text and phone functions. If so, this is the section for us.
Most online services will require us to have a password and each one may have different requirements. We might need to have numbers present and with others or special characters such as; !, &, %, £.
We should always have a unique password to each new service you set up, so people can’t access all of our accounts with the same one. But this can be hard to remember - particularly if we also need to do this for the person we are caring for too!
With that in mind a password manager is a great piece of kit. All our passwords are stored in one place and we just have to remember one master password to access them.
Here are some options:
1. 1Password - Best for Carers
1Password costs around £5 per month. For that money, we can access the service on nearly any device. Plus, there’s a family function which allows us to share some or all of our passwords. This is great for emergencies or if we need a hand and can’t get to a computer.
2. Best free option - Last pass
Last pass is 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!
3. Best for additional protection - Keeper
Keeper is around £44 a year, for that we get similar family functionality to 1Password. But also some neat other features such as help creating strong passwords and alerts if one of our passwords has somehow been breached so we can change it straight away.
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 with a tap or a click are now everywhere, but working out the best option for us can be tricky. Take a look at the top seven apps for free video calling carers have been enjoying.
Some messaging services we can dabble with:
Facebook and Facebook Messenger
All of them have their benefits and drawbacks. So it’s helpful to think about how we prefer to communicate. Would we prefer text-based communications or video? One to one or in a group?
We should also think about our devices. If we don’t have a smartphone, some of them won’t be available to us.
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.
💡 Top tip - Always check that the internet speed is up to date! Sometimes, having a poor wifi connection can really bring down the quality we experience on video calls. Broadband Savvy have a simple guide on how we can improve our internet speed.
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!
Try voice-enabled devices
More and more people are turning to voice enabled devices which can be super helpful if the person we care for is in another room. These are simply ‘smart devices’ which we can speak to, either to ask for information or ask them to do something.
Whilst these smart devices are great at playing music when asked, there are many other ways we can use them.
For example, we can ask them:
What the weather or time is (for any location around the world)
Set a reminder (to go on a walk, or take pills)
To set a timer
Turn on the lights
Open the curtains
Read our children a book
To call someone (including emergency services)
Text someone that we’re on our way home
Find accessible places to go or eat
Do daily quiz type questions (a family treat!)
Make an announcement to someone else in a different room (i.e. if they’d like tea)
The low cost of these smart devices is also a real benefit and means we can have them in multiple rooms. The best devices are sold from Amazon and Google and depending on who we already have accounts with, is largely the biggest factor when choosing.
Best for shopping - Amazon’s Echo
Perhaps we’ve heard of Alexa. This is the voice of the virtual assistant to Amazon’s product Echo. There are a variety of different devices available starting from £39, and some include screens which can be very handy.
We’ll need an Amazon account but the benefits are significant. For example, quickly 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 which could help carers. It’s become so popular that Amazon have started to work on a new version designed specifically for older people and carers in care homes.
Best for information - Google Nest
Google offers a similar range of devices starting from £49, all powered by Google’s search system which means we are never far from the right answer. To get the most from Google’s nest product we’ll need a Google account. It will help a lot if we use Google’s calendar and email as well.
Similar useful tools for carers to Amazon Echo 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. But, if we are tied up in the Apple ecosystem of devices, we 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 we think it’s for us take a look at their devices.
Give online learning for any task a go
As carers we often find ourselves needing to take on new skills and become good at them quickly.
For all your questions - Youtube
Youtube is the world’s second biggest search engine after Google. And we’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 - we’ll find lots of step-by-step answers here.
Learn something new - Skillshare
If we’d like to take up a new hobby or learn something new, the folks at Skillshare have us covered. They use video tutorials from experts all over the world to teach us new skills. We could relax and learn how to paint, learn how to start a new business, or even try our hand at interior design!
Learn from a celebrity expert - MasterClass
Perhaps we’ve always wanted to learn from the very best, if so look no further. MasterClass brings us 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 we’ll be spending our time learning in some very good company. Also, they also cover dog training, gardening, magic and much more!
Digital skills for experts
This section is for if we’ve grown up with the internet or use it all day every day. We may be looking for a few ways to start to challenge ourselves. 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, we can now get nearly anything as a connected device.
When we start to combine smart tech with assistants like Google, Siri and Alexa, we really start to see the benefits. More companies like Ikea are bringing a range of options through at reasonable prices.
With all this in play, we can start to get some basics in our life and incorporate these into our routines. For example, we could have a routine set up where at a particular time in the morning the blinds open, the weather is read to us, alongside any reminders or things we need to do that day.
If this then that - IFTTT
Time to connect our digital world together in a few clicks! And it’s not as complicated as it sounds. IFTTT is an amazing service which allows our different account ecosystems to talk to each other (sort of). For example once we create an account, we can create a IFTTT that says: if the time is 8:00pm, then send me a notification to read an article about X.
We could also sync the reminders from our Alexa with those on our iPhone, get a notification when the international space station goes over our home, use it to log when medication is taken so we always know how much we have in our supplies. Or receive a notification when something essential at Tesco goes on offer.
A final word
Despite the great benefits technology can bring to us, research has also shown that some advanced digital designs may pose as barriers to some.
No Isolation's Digital Exclusion report revealed how the touchscreen future may leave 5.6 million elderly behind in the UK. The accessibility to technology which we may think is working wonders, may not be as accessible as we think.
So why not check out KOMP? It is a one button computer that makes the process of sharing photos and making video calls super easy. Easy enough for those inexperienced with technology.
Share your ideas with us
If you have a great tip for digital skills for carers, pop us an email here and we’ll update our guide to with even more ideas!