How we connected loved ones in long term care during COVID-19
by Trevor Nuttall, Chief Solutions Officer
One of the most challenging things that we have had to face throughout this COVID crisis is not being able to spend time close to our loved ones. Recently my Grandpa turned 96 and was unable to celebrate with his family due to his long-term care facility being locked down to visitors. My Grandpa is hard of hearing, has sight issues and has a hard time speaking as well. He also HATES technology and refuses to use anything other than a radio with analogue dials. I quickly realized that we are not the only family in this situation.
We found through previous ‘trials’ with him that using a traditional tablet or laptop for video conferencing was next to impossible for a number of reasons:
1. He didn’t know how to use it or even turn it on. Because he was holding it, he kept on pressing the home screen button inadvertently which closed the VC app. This was extremely frustrating for everyone and put him off completely.
2. The speakers were not loud enough for him to hear properly.
3. The microphone was inadequate to pick him up speaking quietly as well as there was a ton of ‘echo’ that he couldn’t tolerate.
4. Him holding the device with a camera didn’t work as he didn’t even know where to point the camera.
So this got us thinking that there has to be a better way to stay connected to my Grandpa and reduce frustration for everyone.
Using our knowledge and experience in the AV space and some spare parts in our warehouse, we were able to design a self contained mobile video conferencing system on wheels. This “Portable Connection Cart” can be wheeled into a tenants room, plugged into power and automatically power on and load a video conferencing codec of choice (Zoom, Skype, etc). The families hosting the video conference simply provide the 9 digit meeting number to the staff member so they can help start the meeting.
Our Portable Connection Carts have been fitted with large format displays that are big enough for people to see clearly, commercial grade ‘Huddle Bars’ which include a high quality camera, a noise/echo cancelling mic array that is extremely clear and a speaker system that can go loud enough for the hard of hearing. We also added a small form factor computer that, if required, can be remotely accessed for technical support. Remote capabilities allow us to change settings on the TV, software, or Huddle Bar all without having to go onsite.
The rolling Kanto carts fit everything and hide all the wires perfectly making this a completely self contained solution that rolls extremely easily and smoothly on just about any floor.
We wanted to make this as affordable as possible without compromising the experience and minimizing the impact on the environment. So we chose to ‘freecycle’ as much as possible. We reached out to several of our vendors and customers to see if they had any extra gear. Big thanks to Kanto for providing the carts, KalTire for donating retired computers, Novmega Techologies for connecting us with Coast Hotel Tsawwassen owned by Century Group who donated several large screen TV’s and to Logitech, Yamaha & Aver Media for giving us special pricing on their Huddle Bar setups.
Learn more about our Portable Connection Carts.