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Coronavirus In Ohio: Nursing Homes Use Technology To Maintain Social Connections

Elderly person in a nursing home.
Sabine van Erp

Following Ohio's order prohibiting visitors to nursing home facilities, providers are scrambling to find ways to connect residents with their family members.

Last week, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that visitors will be barred from nursing homes and assisted living facilities, except in end-of-life cases. People over 65, and patients with pre-existing conditions, are among the groups with the highest risk of death from coronavirus.

The MacIntosh Company operates seven nursing facilities in the Columbus area, with about 700 residents in all. Spokesman Ryan Stubenrauch says they’ve bought a couple dozen iPads to help residents stay in touch—while remaining safe from possible exposure to COVID-19 coronavirus.

“We’ll be able to have a few tablets at every one of our facilities and rotate those, sanitizing them between uses, so all our residents get a chance to keep in contact with their friends and family,” Stubenrauch says.

Stubenrauch says the idea of maintaining contact for residents in the event of restrictions like these came up in meetings weeks ago, and administrators recognized they’d need to come up with a plan.

“One of the most important things for any senior citizen who’s living in one of our retirement communities or assisted living communities, or any community, is contact with their families with their friends with the outside world,” he says.

MacIntosh is using the video conferencing app Zoom, which will allow residents to connect with multiple people at once.

The Ohio Department of Health makes the following recommendations to protect yourself from illness:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; dry hands with a clean towel or air dry hands. 
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable. 
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. 
  • Stay home when you are sick. 
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.

Ohio's coronavirus call center is open to answer questions from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The hotline number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH or 1-833-427-5634.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.