Good Neighbors

Women Raise Money To Buy iPads For Nursing Home Residents

They wanted to give seniors a way to stay connected during the coronavirus pandemic.

As states and cities continue to put strict visitation rules in place at nursing homes, people are thinking of creative ways to keep in touch with their loved ones.

Heartbreaking images of family members holding signs outside of nursing home windows have been circulating on social media, including a woman using a white board as her only means of communication.

With most nursing homes banning visitors, some people are coming up with creative ways to stay in touch. Facetime For Nana/Facebook

When Sarah Firth, a nurse with New Bedford Schools in Massachusetts, saw those images, she said her heart sank.

"It made me cry,′ Firth told SouthCoast Today. "I thought these poor people in the nursing homes; they're so scared and isolated. I wish I could get a bunch of iPads to give to them."

Here's a story about one man who went to great lengths to wish his wife a Happy Anniversary at her nursing home: Man Gets Creative To Celebrate Wedding Anniversary

Firth reached out to her friend, Jill Valadao, about starting a fundraiser to get iPads to nursing home residents in the area so that they could FaceTime with their relatives and stay connected.

Valadao, a speech therapist, was more than happy to help.

"The people in nursing homes get forgotten," she said. "Out of sight is out of mind. I remember when I worked in a nursing home the patients with dementia, they're used to seeing their families every day and it's troubling if they don't. Your heart breaks for those people."

Sarah Firth (L) joined up with Jill Valadao (R) to raise money to buy iPads for seniors in their community. Facetime For Nana/Facebook

So, the women started a fundraiser page on Facebook called "FaceTime For Nana" to help raise money to purchase the iPads. They thought they might raise enough to buy one iPad, but after less than a week they had raised over $3000.

"It was a small act of kindness and it's grown into something bigger," Firth said. "In a world now where everyone is fending for themselves, you have to keep doing stuff for others."

Last Friday, Firth and Valado made their first three iPad deliveries to Autumn Glen's memory unit in Dartmouth and Alden Court Nursing Care and Royal of Fairhaven Nursing Center in Fairhaven.

The residents quickly put the iPads to good use...

The women wore gloves and were careful to wipe down the packages when they handed them over to staff members, who later passed the iPads along to the residents.

Within 24 hours, Firth got a message from Sharon Jensen, the activity director at Alden Court.

"During such a difficult time, these sweet gestures literally make the residents days", Jensen wrote. "Yesterday more than 75 face time calls were made to families at Alden. This process has kept our families connected and reassured that their loved one is safe and content. The residents get a kick out of the technology and share a few laughs/smiles when they see their loved one on the iPad."

The iPads are allowing the seniors to connect with their loved ones via FaceTime. Alden Court Nursing Care & Rehabilitation Center/Facebook

While Firth and Valado say they were just doing their part to help at-risk people in their community, they're happy to know that the seniors are already using the technology in a positive way.

"I just want to say elderly people are vulnerable as it is, COVID-19 aside," Firth said. "Especially those suffering from dementia and Alzheimers, they feel isolated already. We thought seeing a familiar face might make them feel connected."

How can you start something good?

While the "FaceTime For Nana" fundraiser has ended, you can still help by showing kindness and empathy to others in your community, during the coronavirus crisis and after.

There are many ways to help seniors who may be self-isolating and feeling scared. Check in on your elderly neighbors, offer to do their grocery shopping or drop off a meal and any supplies they might need.

You can also reach out to your local nursing home to see if they're accepting cards or messages on behalf of the residents.

Let's #StartSomethingGood together.

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