Edenbrook Senior Care one of first to bring in virtual volunteers

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- Places like nursing homes, that are housing the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, have put many protocols in place to keep the virus out but it’s also leaving residents isolated.

Residents at Edenbrook Senior Care have virtual visits from volunteers across the country.

“It's been difficult,” said Cody Kivisto, administrator at Edenbrook Senior Care in Green Bay. “Visitors are restricted, people are used to having family members and people coming into the building to see them daily and now that's gone.”

One thing that is not gone is technology and Edenbrook is using it to bring in visitors.

Residents at the care facility were the first to try out “Virtual Visit Friend,” where volunteers sign up to visit a resident via video chat.

It all started with an ad post by Ian Aizman on “NextDoor” two weeks ago in his hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In just a few hours he got about 60 volunteers interested in calling seniors at nursing homes; from there it gained even more traction.

“Right now we have a volunteer list of over 200 people,” said Aizman.

He wanted a way to help seniors feel connected to a friend, even if they didn’t know each other during this time of crisis.

“If you want to volunteer with the nursing home, you're not limited geographically. If you want to give up your time to visit someone, you can do so like this,” said Aizman.

So far about 10 residents of Edenbrook have talked virtually with someone, which is keeping people like Merry Trapp in high spirits.

“I feel like a celebrity,” said Trapp, who has never video chatted with anyone until now. “I chatted with a young woman from Minnesota. She just asked about my life and I told her how I was a seamstress certified tailor.”

“My hope is that this is going to be a whole added layer of infrastructure in the nursing home industry,” said Aizman. “I don't see this as a Bandaid to a problem, I see it as a whole new layer to the way we interact with our elders.”

Click here to sign-up to be a volunteer.

Other ways Edenbrook staff is making sure residents still get to interact include hallway Bingo, where people can sit in the doorway of their room and play bingo from there.

The seniors even formed pen pals with those living down the road at Moraine Ridge Senior Living.

Staff is also working on setting up video chats with the senior’s loved ones.

Kivisto says the video chatting via “Virtual Visit Friend” is something they plan to keep doing, long after we’re out of quarantine.

“I think it's something we will continue to do just for the simple fact that it gives residents an opportunity to continue to meet new people,” said Kivisto.

Only staff is allowed in the facility at this time, and each one gets their temperature taken and must wear a face mask.

Staff has also canceled group activities of more than 10 people.

Kivisto says no one at the facility has tested positive for COVID-19.