Good Samaritan helps residents stay connected with new iPads

Courtney Collen, Sanford Health News | Photo/Video by Max Jensen, Sanford Health 

Disclaimer: This story was filmed on-location, April 3rd, following new visitor guidelines set in March. As employees of the Good Samaritan and Sanford Health, the journalist and videographer were both thoroughly screened, questioned and provided face masks upon entry of the Good Samaritan – Sioux Falls Village.


While the senior population is particularly susceptible to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, leaders of the Good Samaritan wanted to help keep its residents social through video technology while they're told to distance themselves from their loved ones.

In doing so, late March, the Society has purchased and deployed 1,000 Apple iPads to facilities – primarily skilled and assisted living – across its 24 state footprint.

You could say, with certainty, staying social is a way of life among seniors. This is especially true at the Good Samaritan – Sioux Falls Village.

“Our job is to keep everyone engaged in life, keep them busy with things they love to do,” Activity Director Becky Erickson said.

Lately, things have been quiet… even a little lonely.

It's challenging for all of us

“Not having families here… our families bring us a lot of joy. Not having volunteers here. A lot of our duties have fallen back onto the staff that we’ve had volunteers helping with a lot,” Erickson said. “We are the social part of this building. Not being able to gather our people, have entertainers and people come in and spend time with us has hit us hard as it has everybody.

COVID-19 has turned our worlds upside down while taking the meaning of ‘connecting’ to a new level.

“The iPads will be a great resource to help us connect with the families,” Erickson said.

Each location will get a different amount of iPads based upon the projected need, according to Good Sam Regional Vice President Phil Samuelson.

“Another neat part of this is, with changes with TeleHealth, we’re hoping these devices will bring providers and other caregivers virtually into our buildings so our residents do not have to leave and we don’t have to let providers in our buildings. Keeping that separation and essential services where they need to be,” Samuelson said.

Keeping everyone connected

With these new devices, 95 year-old Phyllis Erdmann can see her son all the way down in Texas and catch up as if they weren’t 1,000 miles apart.

“We can talk on the phone, but being able to see the interaction, the faces. Think about the grand-kids out there that brings the smiles to our residents. It’s going to be valuable tool for us,” Samuelson said.

Phyllis, her son and his wife about golf and work and even share some exciting news for the great-great grandmother: another set of twins on the way marking the family’s third set of twins.

For awhile, this is the “new normal” and Phyllis is already proving technology is not so bad, even at 95 years-old.

“It thrills your heart,” Phyllis Erdmann said, grinning from ear-to-ear. “That warm feeling… it’s like you want to reach out and touch.”

“Just to see the family members so relieved they can see their loved ones, know they’re doing okay and being able to talk to them. It’s a good thing. It’s a wonderful thing,” Erickson said.

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