Dropping In On Carol In North Dakota

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Learn how ND Assistive helped a family overcome pandemic visiting restrictions and save their mom’s life!

Wilting red flowers.

“My mother was wilting like a flower without water.”

Rhonda in North Dakota

Rhonda came to North Dakota Assistive’s AT Demonstration Center in Bismarck concerned about her mother, Carol. Carol has mobility and fine motor impairments and is unable to use a touch screen or a standard telephone. Before the pandemic, Rhonda was used to visiting her mother at her long-term care facility after work each day, and Carol looked forward to seeing her. Then the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to their routine.

Since Carol cannot independently use a telephone or tablet computer, she became dependent on staff members to facilitate FaceTime using equipment shared at the residence. The visits were not as frequent, and when mother and daughter did connect, the strain caused by visiting restrictions was increasingly obvious. Rhonda watched as her mother grew depressed and heard her voice drain of spirit. She told staff at ND Assistive, “I think she’s losing her will to live. We’re going to lose my mom, and I can’t even be there to see her.”

Rhonda and her brother found ND Assistive while searching for an accessible phone. The Assistive Technology Act of 2004 ensures that every state and territory has an AT Act Program, a place to go to see and learn about devices that can make a difference for individuals with disabilities and older adults. AT Act Programs have knowledgeable staff who meet with visitors, discuss needs and abilities and demonstrate equipment free of charge. They also provide short-term loans of equipment for free or a nominal fee. ND Assistive is among the AT Act Programs that additionally provide Telecommunications Equipment Distribution (TED) services, which pays for specialized telecommunications equipment for persons with qualifying disabilities. (Find your TED services program.)

An older woman in bed looks at woman on a screen bedside.
Carol visits virtually with Rhonda.

At the AT Center in Bismarck, AT Consultant Annette Goehring listened to Rhonda explain Carol’s needs and abilities. “I said, how about something she doesn’t have to pick up to answer? How about something where she can actually see you, and you can see her?” Annette demonstrated the Amazon Echo Show and used the Center’s to “drop-in” on another office so Rhonda could see how it worked.

The Echo Show is a smart speaker with a video display that may connect to other Amazon device users for communication. The “drop-in” feature allows the device to automatically answer video calls from permitted contacts, hands-free by the receiver. Drop-in is especially helpful for individuals with mobility and/or cognitive issues that make answering calls difficult. The video function can be shut off with the touch of a button during personal care to ensure privacy.

Rhonda thought the “drop-in” feature was the right fit for their circumstances, so ND Assistive helped Carol acquire an Echo Show at no charge through TED services. Annette also helped Rhonda set up the device. When Rhonda took it to Carol’s residence, all they had to do was plug it in and connect it to Wi-Fi. “She didn’t have to pay for a phone line because she was able to use the Wi-Fi there,” Annette emphasizes (another expense saved). The TED program also pays for accessories, and Carol acquired a stand for her Echo Show so it could swivel out of the way and also tilt for the best angle for bedside viewing.

A field of young red poppies at sunset.

Rhonda has used the Echo Show to resume her visiting routine after work each day. Carol’s son and granddaughter also drop by, and since three-way calling is available, sometimes they are together. “You guys are really saving lives!” Rhonda told ND Assistive. “This Echo Show has been a lifesaver for our family during the pandemic this past year. It literally has saved my mother’s life. She has perked up. She was like a flower that hadn’t been watered.”

Find your State or Territory AT Act Program

Learn More:

Look Mom – No Hands! Easy Video Visits Using Amazon Echo Show (from ND Assistive)

Assistive Technology Supports Seniors to Live at Home Longer in North Dakota (an AT3 Center case study)

Video Calling Option Now Available On ND’s Specialized Telephone Program (from ND Assistive)