Veterans experience a new kind of connection with their families during COVID-19 crisis

Amid the current pandemic, veterans and their family members are finding comfort in a new form of connection – virtual visits via video calls. With physical distancing as the new standard and visitor restrictions in place to protect the health and safety of health care workers, residents and patients, the Veteran’s Care Program has turned to technology to fuel connection and reduce social isolation during these challenging times. 

After receiving a request to skype with their loved one from a family caregiver, a staff member brought the idea to the therapeutic recreation team last week to get things rolling. “We started by reaching out to family caregivers of residents who are used to having daily visits and those who are unable to initiate a phone call on their own,” says Alexis More, the therapeutic recreation specialist leading the initiative. “In our first week, we connected with 11 families and we’ve already started receiving more requests through word of mouth.”

Members of the interdisciplinary team have stepped up to support by partnering with individual families to facilitate – arranging schedules, booking a laptop or iPad and sitting with veterans to make the calls. With this help, the team has been able to extend the offer for calls to residents on all three units.  

Veteran Stanley Lee waves to his daughter during a virtual visit.

For many veterans, this is the first time they’ve had the opportunity to take part in a video chat. After a virtual visit with his family and pets, one veteran said, “I’m doing something I never before thought was possible – it’s like a telephone call but better because I can see their face!”

The calls have been a meaningful experience for both veterans and family caregivers. After blowing kisses to his daughter, one resident hugged the iPad stating “it feels like I’m hugging you.”

Another daughter shared, “It means so much to us as we are used to seeing dad every day. The days are precious with him, so it is a breath of fresh air to physically see him happy and well. It makes my heart sing.” 

Staff are hoping to get as many people involved as they can. Any family member that has a relative in the Veteran’s Care Program is welcome to reach out to the recreation team to arrange a call. “It’s been exciting, and the next best thing to seeing family in person,” says More, “We’re doing what we can to keep spirits high. These calls have been such a bright spot in everyone’s days.”

Similar initiatives are now popping up in other areas across Parkwood Institute including Specialized Geriatric Services.

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