People living within PioneerCare Center and Pioneer Cottages Memory Care now have an easier time visiting with family and friends during this pandemic crisis, thanks to the generosity of local donors.
“When we first realized visiting would be restricted, we knew we had to get creative and do it fast,” said Steve Guttormson, PioneerCare Foundation’s director.
The foundation quickly launched a fundraising appeal to pay for equipment and specialized software when pandemic-related visitor restrictions went into effect. In just a few weeks, donors from the community contributed over $15,000, achieving the project’s goal.
“We considered regular tablets or iPads, but they’re not as easy for people who aren’t used to using computers,” Guttormson said.
The technology they chose, called iN2L, isn’t new to activities staff at Pioneer. They purchased one unit close to two years ago and have been using it almost daily. Until the pandemic, however, it wasn’t used for virtual visits.
Florence Mobraten was among the first to try it, visiting with her daughter, Lucia Orcutt. Cynthia Hanson, an activities staff member at Pioneer, arranged the first visit.
“When this all started, Cynthia just reached out to me and asked if I wanted to try Skyping with my mom,” Orcutt said. “I’m very used to Skype because I’ve done it with friends, and it was natural for me. I was impressed with how my mom adapted.”
“This [pandemic] is challenging all of us in different ways,” Orcutt said, noting how many people are now pushed beyond their comfort level to use technology to stay socially connected.
Orcutt, who lives in Eden Prairie, typically called her mom a couple of times a week and drove to Fergus Falls to see her about twice a month before visitor restrictions were put in place. Now, she’s visited her mom three times, using the iN2L equipment. The two also have used Facetime.
“Knowing there was only one unit available, I wanted to make sure other families had the opportunity,” she said.
Activities staff expect to continue using the iN2L devices when things return to normal, too. They’re loaded with interactive exercise activities, guided virtual tours, music playlists, and more. Much simpler to use than a typical computer or tablet, iN2L’s features can be enjoyed by people of varying abilities. Its specialized software, large touchscreen, and clear graphics make it easier for older eyes to see.
“We’ve typically used it for group exercise sessions, the virtual travel tours, and playing themed background music for events,” said Emily Samp, activities director for PioneerCare Center. “It’s been popular, and now with more units available, we can use them simultaneously in different parts of the building. That really helps us plan activities to suit the individual interests of residents.”
Once it became apparent that iN2L could also make virtual visits more accessible via Skype, PioneerCare staff realized the potential value of having multiple units available.
“I feel it’s easier to visit her when I can see her,” Orcutt said, “I think it’s a great option for Mom.”
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