The Story of Moments that Matter

Throughout the pandemic, CapitalCare centres have struggled with how best to virtually connect families with our residents. This was most critical when centres were on outbreaks sometimes lasting months. Families wanted to see their loved ones and our residents wanted to see their families. Working collaboratively the recreation and visiting teams at the centres along with CapitalCare Foundation found ways to digitally connect people using devices purchased through donated dollars or family support.

There were many stories of virtual gatherings, celebrations, and moments of compassion when it came to keeping people connected. One such story has truly hit home and we are so thankful we have permission to share it.

Aggie is the daughter of Tad, who was a longtime resident at CapitalCare Lynnwood. Aggie and her mom came regularly to spend time with Tad as he progressed through his dementia and became more and more dependent on the supports of staff.  Reading aloud, listening to music and just being together were what their visits were all about. Meaningful memories and moments that mattered made each visit important.

When COVID came to Alberta, it meant many restrictions at Lynnwood and the fear of either getting COVID or being part of the spread. This was something that agonized Aggie as she tried to find a way to better stay engaged with her dad. Then there was the PPE. How could he possibly understand her reading or singing through a mask?  As long as there was the ability to meet outdoors or in the indoor courtyard, she could find little ways to connect.  Using focused eye contact while talking in dad’s native tongue helped a bit to break through the issue of the mask.  She really felt she needed a new approach once the COVID outbreak took over Lynwood. The Recreation team offered virtual visits that she jumped on.  They were short as they only had a couple of data-powered tablets.  Aggie booked for herself and mom as often as possible.  It allowed them to spend time with him without the limitations that masking and PPE created. It worked great under the circumstances and provided her and her mom time with him that was so precious.

Then the day came when they heard he now had COVID. Conflicting thoughts of exposure for her mom and being there for her dad ran through her head. It was a real dilemma. One that she had been hoping would not be hers to have to think about. This is when Aggie bought a laptop and an Internet hotspot.  The building’s Wi-Fi connection was not strong enough to reach the resident rooms so Aggie set up a virtual connection via the laptop directly at Tad’s bedside. 

What gave Aggie peace of mind was the system of bedtime Zoom she had established. Zoe, the Recreation Therapist, becomes the conduit, joining the family each day. As COVID took hold of Tad, their worst fear came. He was now at end of life. Between Zoe and the nursing staff establishing the Zoom connection in the morning and again in the evening, enabled Aggie and her mom to stay on Zoom for most of the day, talking to him so he could hear their voices. They also got updates from the staff and were able to connect with the doctor who had taken over his care. As hard as it was to not be there, Aggie and her mom both felt they stayed connected virtually in a way that made the journey through the end of life meaningful for Tad. Sixty plus years they were married and not being together at this time was so hard. But their decision to keep all safe and connect virtually was a relief in so many ways.

The hardest moment, says Aggie, was when they knew it was time. “I could just tell.” Aggie and her mom both said goodbye knowing that he was close. After her mom had said her last goodbyes, Aggie was able to express her many gratitude and love one last time before ending the Zoom session. Within the hour they received word that Tad had passed away. A moment one does not forget, and Aggie was so thankful for the bedside Zoom and the team who made it possible.

In reflection, Aggie has shared that she wants to help CapitalCare centres gain improved Wi-Fi. ‘Maybe we won’t be in a pandemic, but for those families who travel or live far away or for those whose situations mean they just can’t be there every day, connecting virtually is the way to go.’

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Learn more about the Wi-Fi Project at Help us keep families connected for the moments that matter.