Virtual visiting proving popular as Larne home responds to Covid-19 challenges

Virtual visiting is being embraced by residents of a Larne nursing home during the coronavirus crisis.

Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 6:33 pm
Ray relaying a message about life in Gillaroo.
Ray relaying a message about life in Gillaroo.

Through a combination of modern technology and creativity relatives have been able to keep in touch with their loved ones at Gillaroo Lodge.

On Friday, March 13, management took the decision to place restrictions on visiting in the home, and by the following Monday, to close completely to visitors - the first time since opening in 1988 the front doors were closed all day every day.

Nicki McCrudden, nurse manager, said: “It was the most difficult decision we have ever had to take. Gillaroo is renowned for its warm and generous hospitality, and we love having family and friends visit our residents, but we listened carefully to government and public health guidance and came to the conclusion that we had no alternative.’

Betty received Mother's Day greetings.

Staff, a statement from Gillaroo explained, were very aware of the deep loss that relatives would experience by not being able to visit their loved ones. Many of the visitors to the premises are people who come every afternoon, and the impact on them of this enforced isolation was also of great concern to the team.

So what has been happening the nursing home since this period of confinement started?

“First, modern technology has been utilised to the full! A dedicated smartphone has meant that video and audio calls have been made possible. A ‘broadcast list’ was set up so that all relatives could be communicated with quickly and efficiently, and relatives have been offered opportunities to book a slot for a video call with their relative on a regular basis. This has proved very popular and virtual visits are the next best thing to an in-person call in these strange times.

“Some relatives have also been sending personalised messages, pictures and videos to the phone, which staff have been able to share with their relative.

Rina joining in the fun

“Secondly, additional staff have been brought in to help with increased activities, and they have had time to help write messages to families at home, photograph the resident holding these messages, and send a picture to the family via WhatsApp. As far as possible, relatives have been kept informed with what is going on in the home, via these messages and phone calls.

“On Mothers’ Day, relatives were offered the opportunity to drop off gifts, which were appropriately sanitised before being given to the residents. Families were able to make a personal video call to send greetings during the afternoon. Not quite the Mothers’ Day afternoon we are used to, but a good alternative.”

A further positive has been the kindness of others in our community.

“The home has had offers of food items to be enjoyed by both staff and residents from the Prom Café, Lidl and Greggs bakery. Several relatives have left in gifts for the staff. These practical gestures of kindness have been much appreciated.

“Traditionally staff in Gillaroo are outward looking towards our community too, and even in the midst of all the current organisation, planning and anxiety, nurse manager Nicki, who has won numerous awards for her baking skills in local shows, took time to bake some of her famous egg sponges to give to some of our suppliers as an expression of appreciation for their partnership with the home.”

The home went on to pay tribute to staff at this challenging time.

“They are carefully managing their home situations, following stringent infection control protocols, taking seriously the government guidelines, and doing it all with a smile. They are a perfect example about how it is often in the worst of times that people find their greatest resilience.”