When Jamie Ellis, the director of activities at Destin Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Destin, Florida, heard about Project VITAL (Virtual Inclusive Technology for All), she knew that it would be a perfect addition to her residents’ care. Project VITAL is a joint venture of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and the Alzheimer’s Association in response to COVID-19. The program was designed to connect Florida seniors to their families through virtual technology to help mitigate the effects of social isolation.
Ellis immediately wrote a letter of application to Project VITAL outlining how Destin Healthcare and Rehab would use the technology offered through the program. She mentioned that the tablets would enhance residents’ gross motor skills. They would also enable easier communication for nonverbal residents. Because families and friends cannot enter the care center during the pandemic, the tablets would help residents and patients stay in touch with their families. For patients suffering with dementia, displaying family photos on the tablets could be particularly orienting.
The application for the technology was approved within 24 hours, and three weeks later, the care center had two new tablets in hand. The tablets have been so well received, and patients and staff are continuing to find helpful new applications each day. Patients are using them to enjoy audiobooks, games, and to live stream religious services. “We are finding something new we can do for the residents every day,” said Ellis. Residents are thrilled to see family photos and hear the voices of their family members, creating ear-to-ear smiles for both parties. Consulate Healthcare is providing 10 more tablets to the care center so more residents can enjoy the benefits at the same time as one another.
Additional exciting developments are around the corner. The governor of Florida issued a companion plan that will allow care centers to get robotic cats or dogs. These soft, cuddly “robots” will bark and purr and provide comfort to residents, especially those who are in memory care. “It’s an honor to be part of such a life-changing experience,” said Ellis.
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