Clark County nursing homes strive to keep residents in good spirits

Clark County nursing homes and families are doing what they can to keep older residents in high spirits now that visitation has been suspended due to COVID-19, or coronavirus concerns.

The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Veterans Services issued an order suspending visitation at Ohio nursing homes last week. The suspension is meant to protect senior citizens, who are some of the most at-risk for coronavirus, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s website.

Graham Golden, a 5-year-old, visited his grandma, Marge Golden, through her window at Hearth & Home, an assisted living facility in Springfield, earlier this week.

Golden’s aunt, Sue Leep, said Golden wanted to visit his grandmother but couldn’t. Instead, Leep called a nurse at Hearth & Home and asked her to make sure Marge was near her window.

At the window, Graham waved and Marge blew kisses, Leep said, while the two talked on the phone.

“Her smile said it all,” Leep said. “I wanted mom to see him because it makes her happy to see her grandkids.”

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With all group activities canceled, gyms and dining halls closed, and residents spending a lot of time in their rooms without visitors, isolation is a major concern said Kathryn Brod, president and CEO of LeadingAge Ohio, which represents nonprofit long term care providers such as nursing homes.

Technology like FaceTime can be used to connect with family, but for some, it is simply not possible, Brod said.

She said some providers are designating staff members as the “video pal”, who will go room to room with an iPad – sterilized between visits – to help residents FaceTime or call family. Virtual tours, theater performances, and other options are being shared.

Chip Wilkins, Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program director in the Dayton region, who advocates for residents in long-term care, said the big question for many nursing homes is getting creative so residents can contact their loved ones through FaceTime or other types of video chats.

He said the problem is that most nursing homes don’t have enough equipment to make this happen.

If people have technology they can donate, such as a laptop or iPad that can help people talk with loved ones, Wilkins said they should call a facility near them and see if it is needed and if they can work with the facility to arrange a drop-off.

Wilkins said his office sees some families that visit with their loved ones for six to eight hours a day and now those visits have been cut off because of the virus.

“One of our biggest priorities right now is coming up with ways to keep family members in contact,” Wilkins said.

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Bill Robinson, executive director of Villa Springfield Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, said after the visitation suspension the center implemented iPad video chatting so residents could continue to see family members.

“Our residents and our families love to FaceTime. They really miss their family members. Some of our family members come every day, sometimes twice a day, so setting up these iPads has been huge,” Robinson said.

Since starting the iPad video chatting, the center has seen a “boost in moral” in residents.

“This is all very scary for them. It’s scary for all of us. It’s emotional. When these conversations are done there are tears, there are hard goodbyes, but the residents are so happy. It’s happy tears,” Robinson said.

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