The COVID-19 pandemic has brought home to all of us just how vital it is to stay connected with loved ones, especially our seniors. Right away, as soon as stay-at-home orders were being issued, our Magnolia Manor team jumped into action. We created Family Connect, a program to keep our residents in touch with their families. No physical contact allowed, maybe, but our goal was to ensure plenty of face time.
We are both proud and pleased to say that Family Connect has been a tremendous success, for everyone involved.
Simple, Safe, Effective
With families clamoring for information about how to reach out to their loved ones, Family Connect provided an orderly means to accomplish that via video chat. We set up house accounts on Skype and Zoom accessible to all residents. Some residents have their own devices. In Assisted Living, there is also a laptop staff can take to residents’ rooms for a chat session, or residents can come to a central area and use the laptop on the desk.
In the Mattie Marshall Memory Care Center, residents are escorted to the desktop computer for their video calls. Skilled Nursing residents participate as well, with activity directors bringing devices to individuals and assisting as necessary. Family Connect works well even for those who are hard of hearing.
There is no time limit – calls can range from five minutes to more than an hour. Residents also use phones to chat with family members who visit in person but remain outside the window. One daughter who works nearby comes every day on her lunch break to visit her mom this way.
It’s Not All Talk, Either
Family members walk around their yards giving video tours of flowers coming into bloom and other changes. One couple who recently moved from Independent Living into Assisted Living got to see a video tour of their “downsized” furniture and other treasures now ensconced in their daughter’s home in Utah.
Lydia Romero has been on the front lines of Family Connect from its inception. As Resident Sales Coordinator for Personal Care and Memory Care at our Americus campus, she would normally be giving tours and chatting with prospective residents about moving to Magnolia Manor. But those things aren’t happening just now because of the virus.
“It’s been fun – and pretty amazing – to watch, especially that first call!” says Lydia. After all, most residents are between 80 and 100 years old. Some have never used video technology before. Many do not have a smartphone, so Lydia and other staff members routinely offer up their own when residents want to make a Facetime call. “You use whatever means to make residents happy,” she says, because “we are faith-based here, and many of us believe God put us here to do this work.”
Since video conferencing allows multiple participants, Lydia says one resident is now able to chat with her three daughters and one granddaughter all at once.
Lydia has been especially touched by the reaction from her Memory Care residents. For those with dementia, she explains, a change in routine can be difficult. However, being able to connect with their families using video has been a big positive. One “blessing” of a disease that offers no blessings otherwise is that many dementia patients think their loved one is really there with them.
The coronavirus pandemic has also given residents something new to reminisce about among themselves since many have lived through other smaller pandemics in their lifetimes. One resident who is now 105 remembers what it was like as a six-year-old during the Spanish Flu pandemic.
Lydia says it all sounds simple, and it is, but it takes effort. On the other hand, Family Connect is definitely worth it! “We are digging deep for the blessings some days,” Lydia says, but with a smile. After nine weeks of stay-at-home, the residents are getting fractious. “I tell them they are all acting like a bunch of middle schoolers,” she says, “and they just laugh and agree.”
If you want to learn more about Family Connect or senior living at Magnolia Manor, please contact us at 855-540-5433.