(Above) A resident of The Salvation Army's Ottawa Grace Manor long-term care home video conferences.

Keeping loved ones connected is critically important as long-term care and seniors’ homes are restricting visitations to protect residents from illness.

The Salvation Army’s Ottawa Grace Manor long-term care home is bringing residents together with their families and loved ones through video conferencing.

Glenn van Gulik, public relations director of The Salvation Army, Ottawa, was thinking of his own grandmother who lives in a retirement residence.

“My uncle was visiting with my grandmother in a retirement residence prior to the full restrictions on visitation and recorded a short video of their time together. It made me wonder about what options existed for other families who have loved ones living in long-term care or retirement residences.” says van Gulik. “With the full restriction on visitation, there could be thousands of long-term care residents in Ottawa who may not be able to have a visual connection with family and friends.”

He shared the idea with Cameron McCallum, director of Ottawa Grace Manor.

“Cameron jumped on the idea right away to make this initiative possible,” says van Gulik. “He saw so much potential that our communications team started working on the solution right away.”

Ottawa Grace Manor now has five Apple iPads that allow residents to connect with their loved ones virtually using Whereby.com video conferencing solution. Each wing of Grace Manor has an iPad that can be used in a private online “virtual room” so that residents and assisting staff have quiet undisturbed space for calls.

“It’s another way that The Salvation Army is bringing the best care possible to our residents,” says McCallum. “The video calls keep families and residents, who may be feeling isolated, more engaged and it gives them something to look forward to during these difficult times.”

In the first couple of weeks, families of residents are already sharing how excited they are to have this new way to connect. Barbara, who’s elderly mother is a resident of Grace Manor shared:

“I’m on top of the world! The link worked great, and the video visit was amazing! Mom couldn’t speak but I could tell she was aware and trying to respond. I’m so grateful for that opportunity to connect with her. A million thanks!!”

The Salvation Army is working to expand the initiative to other long-term care homes in the province.

“Every day at Grace Manor, we are not only providing for physical needs of our residents but also caring for their emotional and spiritual well-being,” says McCallum. “In these extraordinary times, we need unique solutions and I think The Salvation Army is achieving that.”

The Salvation Army continues to provide its essential services to the vulnerable during COVID-19. For more information or to donate visit SalvationArmy.ca or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY.

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