How to Support Clients Remotely
Helping Clients Transition to Remote Service
Transitioning to remote service is not just a challenge for organizations, but also for the clients you serve. There may be a number of factors, including economic, computer literacy, trust, wellness and safety that make accessing service remotely a challenge. Clients may also be more vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. Below are some ideas and resources for supporting clients during this time.
Helping clients adjust to Telehealth services
Three of the biggest factors impacting client’s adjustment to Telehealth services are access, ability, and comfort.
Access – Some of your clients do not have access to computers, internet or phone. The places where they would usually go to access this technology, like libraries, community centres, wifi from public spaces, and social service agencies are not available right now. This can impact their ability to access your support, and also their ability to stay in touch with family and friends, increasing their social isolation. There have been a number of articles written about this “digital divide” and advocating for digital access to be a human right. Many countries and cities were taking measure before and now during COVID-19 to help, see the resources at the bottom of this article for more information.
Ability – Another barrier to accessing remote services can be computer literacy. Not all clients are comfortable and familiar with navigating the internet, apps or video chatting that you may now be using as a part of your service. Providing options for phone calls, providing simple instruction pages that are easy to follow, and providing phone support the first time they access can all be helpful in supporting your clients. It’s also a good idea to help clients be aware of what is a secure and private way of communicating, and what is not. For example, email is not a great option for sending private and health related information.
Comfort – Not everyone has the same comfort level or trust in technology. For some clients meeting digitally may even feel unsafe or triggering. Listening to your client’s concerns is very important. Ask them what feels uncomfortable and if they have ideas of how you can make accessing support more comfortable for them. Offer different options (e.g., maybe phone is more comfortable, maybe video on/off, maybe there’s a different digital platform they’re more used to). Wherever you can be flexible, or take the transition in smaller steps, is helpful. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box: maybe it’s possible to also use mail or handwritten notes in some way! Whatever helps them to feel comfortable connecting to you.
Resources to support clients’ digital access
- US – Lifeline is the Federal Communications Commission’s program to help make communications services more affordable for eligible consumers
- US – Lifeline during Coronavirus Pandemic (program is expanding it’s parameters for COVID-19)
- US – EveryoneOn – Find Low-Cost Internet Service and Computers in Your Area
- CAN – Seniors & Vulnerable Peoplean example of how the City of Toronto is improving access to internet/phone during COVID-19 (see “Internet Access for Vulnerable People”)
- CAN – Telus Mobility for Good Program
- UK – Coronavirus lockdown: Laptops offered for online school lessons at home
- UK – Broadband for low income families
- UK – Broadband deals for the elderly
- AUS – Telstra’s Access for Everyone Program
Supporting clients who are unsafe due to abuse in social distancing
One of the many challenges during this time is for our clients who do not have safe places to stay due to abusive partners, parents, or other individuals in their household. This applies both to clients who seek our support specifically for this reason who we know are in abusive situations, and our clients who seek our support for other things where we may not yet be aware of their abusive environment. Given reprieve from abuse and safety may be reduced with measures keeping everyone at home, and stress which can exacerbate abuse is increased, this can put people in very dangerous situations. Accessing support can be more challenging too, as people may not have a private space away from their abuser to talk, and digital support leaves a trail on devices used. Below are a few resources to support clients in staying safe, erasing their digital trail, and visual signals clients can use on video calls to indicate help is needed.
Resources to support safety during social distancing
- Safety tips for women living with an abusive partner during social distancing – includes how to wipe your digital and phone trail
- Staying safe during COVID-19: A guide for victims and survivors of domestic abuse
- Signal for Help (violence at home)
- CAN – Resources for Women Experiencing Abuse
- Protecting children from abuse in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – an on-demand webinar
Supporting clients struggling with mental health and substance use
Many of us are struggling with regulating our moods, emotions, stress and anxiety right now, and for people who had already struggled with their mental health before the coronavirus, their situation may be exacerbated. Some of our clients with severe mental health who had informal supports in place such as family, friends, church groups, or neighbours may also be finding themselves isolated from that support in addition to the changes in your support to them. Providing your clients with tools they can use at home to support coping with the additional anxiety and regulating emotion, connecting with online support groups and maintaining their connections to their informal supports through digital and other means is essential and a challenge during this time.
Likewise, during this time many of us have increased our use of alcohol and/or substances, and for clients who may already struggle with their use of alcohol and/or substances, they are experiencing extra challenges right now. These challenges are not limited to anxiety and triggers that increase use, but also the risk of not being able to access alcohol and/or substances and experiencing sudden and dangerous withdrawal, and the increased risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus with the ways they may access, transport, prepare and use substances.
Below are a few tools and resources you can provide to your clients and use with your clients to be able to support them in regulating their anxiety, moods and emotions and staying safe in their use and access to alcohol and substances.
Resources to support clients’ mental health
- The CARD System for Coping with Fears and Anxiety
- The CARD System for Parents/Caregivers
- Bounce Back free online skill-building program from CMHA based in cognitive-behavioural therapy (available for people living in Ontario, BC, Manitoba)
- Wellness Together Canada – Mental Health and Substance Use Support
- Audio Meditations
- How to Stop Worrying
- Quick Stress Relief
- 5 tips for coping when you’ve got a mental health condition
- Coronavirus: Advice for carers of those with severe mental illness
- Self-Help Resources for Mental Health Problems
Resources to support clients’ harm reduction
- Infographic: Coping with Stress, Anxiety and Substance Use During COVID-19
- Infographic: COVID-19 Harm Reduction Tips – reducing risk in the purchase, transport, preparation and use of drugs
- Infographic: Harm minimisation advice for people who use alcohol and other drugs
- COVID-19 and Cannabis Smoking and Vaping: Four Things You Should Know
Supporting clients who are older adults
Seniors are another group that may be experiencing increased struggle during this time. While they are at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus and increased risk of hospitalization and death, they may understandably be experiencing a greater level of anxiety. They also may be experiencing a greater level of social isolation, as they may be staying in more, may live alone, and may not have access and ability to utilize digital technology in the same way (many can, but not everyone). If they have less access to technology, they may also have less access to current information and resources. They may also be more reluctant to seek support for health and other needs as they may not know what is open or how to access remotely. Below are a few resources specific to the challenges that older adults may face.
Resources to support older adults
What advice and resources do you have to offer?
You all have great experience and resources that you’ve used and developed during this time that could help others – we’d love to hear from you! Do you have anything you’d like to share with your Penelope Community?
If so please contact us.