'It was delightful,' seniors say of first video chat in COVID-19 times

  • Milly Fricke, 91, a resident of Vines Senior Homes in Elgin, video chatted for the first time Wednesday in a call with her son Mark Fricke of Geneva.

    Milly Fricke, 91, a resident of Vines Senior Homes in Elgin, video chatted for the first time Wednesday in a call with her son Mark Fricke of Geneva. courtesy of Cathy Vaden

 
 
Updated 4/1/2020 5:35 PM

The state's stay-at-home directive has curtailed face-to-face contact for everyone, but it's been a particularly rough time for seniors in nursing homes who already had been dealing with visitor restrictions as a precaution against COVID-19.

Staff members at the Vines Senior Homes in Elgin have been trying to make sure the 62 residents communicate with their families as much as possible. That includes frequent phone calls, in-person visits through first-floor windows, and video chats, which many residents had never experienced.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Milly Fricke, 91, tried video chatting for the first time Wednesday when she spoke with her son, Mark Fricke of Geneva.

"It was delightful," she said. "I felt like he was across the table from me having a cup of coffee, and we were reminiscing and coming up to date with the news of our lives."

Her son said he was equally happy. "This worked out really well, and we'll do it more, probably a couple of times a week," he said. "A lot of folks that are elderly, they are more confined and restricted than they were before. It causes anxiety, and this way to stay connected with their families, it just makes them feel better."

Staff members have set up video chatting for residents -- sometimes up to 15 per day -- on three devices: a desktop Apple computer, coincidentally donated by the Fricke family last year, an "It's Never Too Late" (iN2L) computer system for seniors, and an iPad recently donated by a family specifically for video chats in the wake of the pandemic, activity director Cathy Vaden said.

Vaden and three others on her team also use their own cellphones to allow seniors to video chat, she said.

"We downloaded Skype, FaceTime and Google Duo," she said. "We keep a list every week and we try to get as many of our residents as we can connected. It's a tough time, so we try to do what we can and try to keep things uplifted."

Resident Pat Sorensen, 88, video chatted for the first time with her son in Elgin and her daughter in Plato Center this week. The experience was so emotional she cried happy tears, she said.

"I loved it," she said. "I thought it was wonderful. I really did."

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