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New technology helps families connect with those in long term care facilities

Residents in long term care facilities in all but 1 Tennessee county are closed to visitors

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — There is only one Tennessee county left where people living in long term care facilities can have visitors, that is Trousdale County. Everyone else is shut out because COVID-19 transmission rates are too high in the states 94 other counties.

"It's obviously very unfortunate to not have visitation with in the facilities,"said Jesse Samples, Tennessee Health Care Association Executive Director.

Samples said the association is working on ways for facilities to manage visitation safely in the future. Samples said in the next 30 to 45 days, all Tennessee facilities should have point-of-care testing equipment delivered which will allow them to do testing on the spot to anyone coming into the facility, including visitors.

Samples said even though the equipment may arrive, it still could be a while before visitation is allowed.

"The first hurdle is to get the counties out of that red marker because nothing is going to happen for those facilities in those counties until we get those numbers down," said Samples.

There is a new way some Tennesseans are connecting to loved ones in facilities. Virtually.  It's called Restore-Skills.com. It's a computer-based occupational and physical therapy gaming program. All someone in a long term care facility needs is a laptop to use it. Restore has been on the market since 2019, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, its creators expanded its capabilities to allow family members to virtually join in.   

"We wanted to create fun and meaningful activities, so we added the ability to connect the family member to the game while doing the activity," said Eran Arden, Restore-Skills CEO.

Arden says there is a list of games a therapist can pick from, depending on what skills the patients needs to work on. During the sessions, family members can get looped in.

"Once they join they would see the patient live and the game running," said Arden. "They can see the loved ones moving their shifting balance left and right while skiing the slopes."

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Arden says family members can cheer the person in the nursing home, and there are even games that can be played together.

While virtually joining in on a session can happen with Restore, the question many want to know is when will they be able to see their relatives face to face. The head of the Tennessee Healthcare said he hopes sooner rather than later but at this point no one really knows.

"I understand their frustration. It's very difficult not to see their loved one," said Samples.

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