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Technology helps families stay connected with loved ones in nursing homes

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Fran Bierman
David Bierman

LODI (WKOW) -- Ever since the pandemic started to take hold of Wisconsin, nursing homes have worked to ensure residents are safe, but that's meant families often can't visit loved ones in person.

For David Bierman and Beth Sluys, being apart from David's mom Fran has been challenging.

"We like to hug, and we like to have that face time," Beth said.

Fran has lived at Divine Rehabilitation and Nursing in Lodi for almost three years. David said before pandemic lockdowns, he visited his mother frequently.

"We were a big presence there, almost on a daily basis, at least on the phone, and then it was two or three times a week [where we would] stop and visit," he said.

Now, David and Beth rely on video calls to talk with Fran.

"Thank God for the internet and technology," Beth said. "Phone calls are one thing, but it's seeing Dave's face in real time and being able to smile at each other. By the end of it, you can tell she might have been in a bit of a slump that day, but coming out of that conversation and having that face time really makes all the difference."

David said his mother started the audiovisual program at Sauk Prairie High School, so she's particularly interested in the technology that makes the video calls possible.

"It's that next level of interest," Beth said. "She calls it Beth and Dave TV."

But even though technology has made the time apart better, it's no substitute for in-person interaction, particularly as the holiday season approaches.

"We talked it over with her, and she understands why we have to be apart," David said. "And then I said we get to celebrate this again when we can be all together. Just think of all the extra birthdays, holidays and gatherings we'll have. That's exciting, too. We want to make it to that point."

Beth and David said ensuring everyone gets through the pandemic safely is their main priority right now.

"We owe it to ourselves and everybody else to keep strong until it's done so we can all be safe again," David said. "People have sacrificed a lot over the many years in our history, and it's our turn. We've just got to be up to that task for everybody's good and health and safety."

They said one of the main reasons they've been able to make it through this challenge is because the staff at the nursing home has gone above and beyond to help families stay connected.

"It's not only the residents that we're supporting," Bobbie Smith, the nursing home's activities director, said. "It's their families. The families are missing their loved ones. They are aching to be with their loved one. They're struggling, too."

Administrator Katie Casey said although communicating with parents and grandparents over video calls isn't ideal, it's better than nothing.

"So what if your family member isn't the best at hearing or seeing? They still know what's going on," she said. "So even if the communication isn't what it could be, try it. They still know what's going on, and they will know their family members."

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Caroline Dade

Reporter/Multimedia Journalist, 27 News

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