Nursing homes using technology to keep families connected during visitation ban

Nursing homes using technology to keep families connected during visitation ban



Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2020:03:16 11:27:01

COURTESY OF ALLIED SERVICES Leona Bonczewski holds up a sign for her loved ones at Allied Services’ Center City Residence & Skilled Nursing facility in Wilkes-Barre.

Although they can no longer see their families in person, residents at area nursing homes are letting their loved ones know they’re OK with the help of social media.

As nursing homes throughout the region continue to ban visitations at their facilities to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, staff are using technology to ensure residents stay in touch with their families.

At Allied Services’ Center City Residence & Skilled Nursing facility in Wilkes-Barre, seniors beamed as they held up signs with messages for their loved ones. Allied posted the photos on Facebook.

Leona Bonczewski had a simple message for her family.

“I miss you and can’t wait to see you! Stay safe!” her message said.

Messages range from reminders to their families that they love and miss them to simply saying they had a great meal that day, said Allied Services Vice President Jim Brogna.

“Obviously it’s great to see the smiling face of your mother, your grandmother, your grandfather,” he said. “Those simple messages, we think, will go a long way of knowing that we care for these people like they’re members of our family.”

Allied, which has facilities throughout the region, including in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, has weathered pandemics and flu seasons, but “we’ve never seen anything this significant,” Brogna said.

Residents are aware of the risks and have handled the lack of visitations “amazingly,” he said.

Jason Kavulich, director of the Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging, said facilities throughout the area are doing their best to keep residents connected with their families.

“They can know that they’re safe, know that they’re healthy and know that they’re being well cared for,” Kavulich said.

The agency’s ombudsman program will continue to check on residents, ensuring their needs are met and lines of communication are open, he said. Additionally, county nursing homes have been “100% cooperative” with the agency’s protective services, he said. If there is an allegation of abuse, neglect or exploitation, the agency can enter the facility and carry out an investigation, Kavulich said, explaining facilities in other areas have banned officials from entering nursing homes during the coronavirus outbreak.

Allied, which has about 500 residents at its nursing and long-term care facilities, is looking into additional ways to keep them connected to their families, including using iPads for video calls. He recommended families send their loved ones videos of day-to-day life, letting them see their grandchildren take their first steps, learn to ride a bike or wish them a happy birthday, Brogna said. Residents have access to the internet, so families can also stream important events, such as weddings, he said.

“We want to keep the lines of communication open as much as possible,” he said.

Visitors are still allowed for those receiving end-of-life care, but Allied will screen them to ensure there is no exposure to other residents, Brogna said.

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