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Staff uses technology to connect residents with loved ones

When Parsons Presbyterian Manor established infection control protocols to prevent COVID-19, Social Services Director Babette Collins knew it would be a challenge to keep residents in regular contact with their families.  

“When the pandemic started, we let the families know that we would do our best to accommodate them with phone and video calls,” she said.

Adding this layer was a bit chaotic before Babette created an Excel spreadsheet to log all the appointments. Staff have been directed to send requests to Babette or Life Enrichment Director Becky Nash.

They faced a steep learning curve at the beginning, but “now everything is downloaded on our iPad so we can just click the button and there we are,” Babette said. “I have learned a lot about technology as a result of this pandemic. I’m not a pro at it, but I’m pretty far up there now.”

Babette keeps an iPad in her office for staff to use, and the nursing staff also has access to an iPad. When needed, members of the leadership team have also used their own cell phones to set up chats between residents and their loved ones.

Babette says their biggest challenge has been trying to figure out how to accommodate everyone who wants to connect with residents.

Initially, she just used the FaceTime app, but she also downloaded Zoom for people using Android and Windows devices. She even became Facebook friends with a family member so that they could chat with a resident through Facebook Messenger.

“It’s neat to see the excitement and awe that the residents can see their loved ones,” Babette said.

She observed one resident chatting with grandchildren, who were using the features of the application to add fun filters and symbols to the chat.  

“They were getting a kick out of that, and it was just fun to see,” she said.

In connecting residents with their families, Babette and her colleagues consider the individual needs of residents. For those with low vision, staff sticks to phone calls.

One resident who is both low vision and hard of hearing has family that sends Babette letters via email. Babette then reads the letters to the resident.

Although staff usually schedules video chat appointments in advance, they are always working to meet resident needs.

“If there’s a staff member available and a resident is having a bad day, they might call a family member and ask if they have time to chat,” Babette said.

“The families and residents have been very appreciative,” she said. “We have a good group of residents and families, and they have been so understanding.”

Babette plans to continue the practice of scheduling video chats even after precautions are lifted. This way, residents can connect more frequently with loved ones who live out of state.

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