Bringing Human Connection to Nursing Homes During COVID-19

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Bringing Human Connection to Nursing Homes During COVID-19

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Even in the best of times, it can be a lonely experience living away from family in a retirement home or extended-living facility. But during the current coronavirus epidemic, residents of these homes are more isolated than usual, and often completely shut in. In this setting, something as simple as having a smartphone for video calls with family members can make a real difference in residents’ quality of life.

Working in tech, we at ALTR often use the latest models of smartphones for work and personal tasks. When we recently found ourselves with a surplus of slightly older phones that still had plenty of life in them, we looked for a way to repurpose the phones in the Austin area, where ALTR is headquartered. The opportunity we found exceeded our expectations.

Working with a local contact, we first determined the need for phones in local nursing homes. Then, ALTR’s technical crew made sure the phones were securely erased of any sensitive data and matched with the appropriate plugs and cables. Then we delivered them to the homes that needed them most.

Because each home typically has just one shared house phone without video, having a good smartphone or two on hand is a big plus for enabling residents to see their loved ones’ faces as they talk with them. Over the past couple of weeks, our team has distributed 20 phones to more than a dozen nursing and extended-living homes in Austin and nearby towns.

The staff at one assisted-living facility reported that they have now explained to their clients how family members of residents can take advantage of the new opportunity to connect. They assured us that the phone “is very much appreciated and definitely will be used.”

We know that this is just a small effort in these trying times, but we were happy we could take these steps to meet a real need for people in our community. And we’ll keep looking for new ways to help. 

If you’d like to do the same, search for organizations in your area that are collecting donations in response to COVID-19. Here in Austin, for instance, the Ascension Texas healthcare group has guidelines for donating used iPads, along with new medical supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE). Meanwhile, the national non-profit #CareNotCOVIDinitiative can help you find local facilities for giving nursing homes new electronic devices, books, games, medical supplies, and more. We hope you’ll consider pitching in!

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