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Published on May 05, 2020

child playing game with grandma via video call

How to Stay in Touch With Loved Ones in Long-Term Care

With tenderness – and technology – residents of Avera long-term care centers are staying in touch with family and friends.

Staff at a number of facilities are bringing folks together who are separated due to the pandemic. Sometimes it’s with video-equipped digital equipment, other times it’s not.

“We’re hosting lots of Facetime meetings and we offer what we call ‘window time’ to residents and their families – with the weather warming up, more people should be able to do that,” said Jennifer Goehring, activities coordinator at Avera Mother Joseph Manor in Aberdeen. “We’ve also set up emails for all our residents, and we monitor those closely so we can share photos or recorded videos.”

For residents who can do so, the “window time” option is simple.

“We have a pair of library windows where residents can go, and their loved ones can meet them on the other side. They just use their phones to hear one another – it’s nice to be able to see them at the same time,” Goehring said. “Our residents who do not have phones or who need help have us assist them to have a window-time session with their families.”

Residents are eager to use almost any method to keep in touch across the region.

“We’re using Skype, FaceTime and Zoom. We have several I-pads throughout the facility,” said Brandi Neugebauer, SW, social worker supervisor at Avera Brady Health and Rehab in Mitchell, S.D. “Families have been given our contact information and they are setting up video visits daily.”

Like in Aberdeen, a designated window is used for in-person family visits on each of the Mitchell care center’s “neighborhoods.”

“We’ve decorated these windows with star so family can identify which window to use, and it’s a popular choice for many,” Neugebauer said. “Family is encouraged to send pictures and letters through email. We print many of them and give them to residents.”

She said many families are using digital picture frames, so that newly taken pictures can be added to the frame from phones.

“Anything that helps the resident see current family pictures – we’ll put it to use,” she said.

As for the cliché that technology is more for young people, Goehring said she doesn’t see it.

“We have additional phones we can use for people who might not have a cell phone, and we have found other methods to help families connect if they don’t have a computer in their home,” she said. “We’re also changing our activities, doing things that our residents can do without possible spread of the virus. Overall, most of our residents are doing great with the changes.”

If you have a member of your family who is a resident in long-term care, reach out to the care team to see if you can call, visit the family window or use technology to keep connections strong.

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