Mass. AG working with nursing, retirement homes to provide new ways for residents to connect with loved ones

BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is working with nursing homes and long term care facilities that were hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is just a really wonderful way to provide joy and reassurance to families right now,” Healey said.

Her office along with the Massachusetts Senior Care Association has collected close to 800 tablets for the facilities, providing a new way for residents to connect with their loved ones.

“Families will often call and say, ‘How is mom today?’ And they’ll bring the tablet in to see mom and visit,” Michael Lincoln, CEO of Deutsches Altenheim said.

The German Centre in West Roxbury is owned by Deutsches Altenheim. It received two tablet donations from the Attorney General’s office. The CEO says it will likely be a while until they allow family visits again so the technology is the next best thing.

“We use them for birthday events and anniversary celebrations," said Lincoln. “Families will have a birthday cake at home and they’ll Skype in and celebrate together.”

The facility is also using the tablets for TeleHealth.

“We connect with the physician and they can talk to the resident directly, ‘How are you feeling? This or that?’ And that’s providing a direct connection with the physician, the resident and the facility,” Lincoln said.

Many of the tablets were donated from big name companies like Amazon, Walmart and Acer. Attorney General Healey and the Massachusetts Senior Care Association plan to donate the tablets to more than 350 nursing homes and long term care facilities across the Commonwealth.

“We’re going to be in this situation for months to come,” the Attorney General said. “Unless you have the PPE in place, unless we have better control of infection rate, we just don’t want to put people at risk.”

Nursing homes are among the hardest hit from the pandemic. More than 60% of all COVID-19 deaths in Massachusetts come from long term care facilities. Healey says there’s much to learn from this crisis.

“We need to make sure that the right policies are in place, that the right equipment is in place," said Healey. “We’ve heard a lot about PPE and staff in facilities needing PPE. [We need] policies and protocols that are uniformed and consistent about to treat residents when comes is suspected and whom to report that to.”

But right now, as fear and isolation take their toll on the elderly, the hope is that technology lifts them back up and provides an outlet to the strength and love of their family members.

“Nursing homes have been so devastated and hard hit by this crisis," said Healey. “I hope this is a way to bring some people joy, both to residents and also staff who are working really hard.”

If you’d like to donate, please contact the Massachusetts Senior Care Association at 617-558-0202.

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