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Staff help residents stay connected with technology

The entire world is navigating uncharted territory as the COVID-19 virus moves across the globe.

Residents and staff at communities such as Aberdeen Village have had to endure drastic changes in operations, procedures and contact with the outside world in order to protect those most vulnerable to the virus. For residents, that has been an especially big challenge that has made it impossible for family members to visit the communities.

“People need to feel connected to other people to feel well,” social worker Liz Miller said. “Emotional health plays into physical health.”

Liz, along with fellow social worker Janelle Erickson and Chaplain Diane Gunsolley, have been coordinating with residents and their families to use eight iPads equipped with video conference software to help keep residents connected to the outside world.

“We have the ability to video chat no matter what level of care you’re in,” Liz said. “We’ve created a shared calendar (that we use to) schedule times. This can be initiated by residents or their families.”

The technology has been an important tool in recent weeks, as the Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines that advise against allowing visitors into long-term care communities. While necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among residents, many people are missing regular visits with family members.

“I see a lot of smiles,” Liz said. “They are happy to be able to connect with loved ones. Family members respond very well. It lets them put eyes on their loved ones, and they know that they’re doing well. Both residents and families really enjoy it.”

While the technology might be new for some residents and their families, Miller has found a way to help everyone streamline the process and understand its mechanisms. This has included coordinating compatible technology between users.

“Sometimes, there’s some explanation for our residents,” Miller said. “I describe it like watching live TV. I say ‘I have a device and you can see your son, and it’s like live TV.’ It goes really well when you describe it like that.”

The response to the technology has been overwhelmingly positive.

“My favorite reaction was from one resident who looked at it, and her daughter asked, ‘What do you think?’ Miller said. “She said, ‘It’s beyond my comprehension,’ but later she said ‘It’s magic! It’s magical!’”

These connections are an important tool in residents’ health, particularly during a stressful time.

“This is all part of the overall well-being of our residents, when we’re all being asked to isolate,” Miller said. “Thankfully we have these platforms, not just for our residents but for families as well. As we visit residents with the iPads, it’s also another pair of eyes checking in and making sure things are OK. Our nurses are incredible and doing so much for residents right now. Every department is going above and beyond. This is another way we can assist and walk with residents during this time.”

Although the technology’s use is born from necessity, Miller expects it will remain in place as a tool to connect residents to their families well after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.

“We’ll absolutely use this more,” Miller said. “For residents with family members out of town or working during the day and can’t visit but might be able to take a break for a quick chat. I think this is something we’ll look at continuing in the future.”

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