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Elderly mother and daughter keep critical connection with technology

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WATCH ABOVE: An elderly mother and her daughter are seeing each other and connecting with technology. As Kendra Slugoski reports, it's helping them cope with the distance and time apart amid the COVID-19 pandemic – Feb 16, 2021

The last time Carol Petersen was able to visit her 98-year-old mom Audrey was in September 2020.

Carol lives in Vancouver, B.C. and her mother in Edmonton, Alta.

“It was really tough to make the decision not to see her over Christmas,” said Carol, “but travel is not smart.”

Read more: COVID-19 silver lining: cultivating extended family relationships

Carol is her mother’s caregiver. She has arranged for meals to be delivered and to have cleaning done in her mom’s independent living suite.

She has also hired Wendy Moyle, of Wendy’s Errands for Elders, to do laundry and provide companionship.

Carol and Audrey kept in touch over the phone until Carol noticed her mom sounded different.

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“She went downhill really quickly,” said Carol.

That’s when Moyle decided to bring her iPad the next time she saw Audrey. Moyle connected the mother and daughter with a FaceTime call.

“I could tell by her voice,” said Carol. “But actually to see her face I could tell that she, my mom, was really going downhill. I though it was some COVID thing or something.”

Read more: Should I move mom home? Families consider care options for loved ones amid COVID-19

Carol contacted her mother’s doctor and blood tests revealed there was a medication mix-up.

“So that was a health issue for me that was really really important.”

Even after Audrey started feeling better, the mother and daughter continued with their video chats a couple times a week.

Despite being in her 90s, Audrey is still sharp, but navigating an iPad on her own would be too complicated.

“She had a rotary phone until about three years ago,” chuckled Carol.

With the help of Moyle, the pair now chats through FaceTime or WhatsApp.

The highlight for Audrey is to see Carol’s dog Pepper. Her face instantly lights up when Carol lifts her dog on her lap and holds her up to the camera.

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“Hi Pepper, it’s grammy,” said Audrey, “look at your beautiful little face.”

Audrey tells her daughter about her Scrabble games, how her cleaning lady brought her plant back to life and she reminisces about a trip to the United States — when she found out she was pregnant with Carol.

Carol often takes her mom on virtual walks outside along the Vancouver seawall.

Audrey Petersen visiting with her daughter Carol and dog Pepper in Edmonton, September, 2020. This was the last time the two saw each other in-person. Supplied

COVID-19 and the ongoing health restrictions have forced many families to rethink how to connect with their loved ones at home or in care, especially if they live in a different city or country.

Moyle’s company, which she started a few years ago as a way to offer pet errands, personal shopping and banking services, has now added technology setup and training to her client care list.

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“I think that’s the biggest thing right now is to have the eyes on the ground,” said Moyle.

“The technology, I found, really kept them involved in their care.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Toronto residents using technology for responsible learning, socializing

Moyle’s furthest clients live in Brazil and Australia — their mom is in Edmonton.

“They’re not coming here,” said Moyle. “The sons can’t come here right now so we set up an Amazon Echo.”

Video is on all the time in the suite and the device allows the sons to check in on their mom at any moment. It’s also simple for their mother to use.

“Voice command,” said Moyle. “Very very simple to use. She doesn’t have to touch anything, she just has to talk.”

New technology doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, added Moyle. She said most people already have an app on their phone.

“You’ve got FaceTime, you’ve got Skype, you’ve got Zoom, you’ve got WhatsApp, you’ve go Duo. You can do it right now. It’s not that you have to walk away to go purchase something.”

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Moyle said it’s critical to make an Age in Place plan and to include how you and your loved ones would communicate if visitors were restricted.

While it may be intimidating, Moyle said technology can also also be used beyond video calls with families to stay connected in the community.

Read more: ‘Technology is everything’: Lethbridge businesses can video chat to stay connected during COVID-19

One of her clients in her 80s logs on to Zoom to watch her online church service.

“Never did she think she’d be Zooming,” Moyle said. “But now that brings a sense of… pride to them.

Moyle has also witnessed the positive change in Audrey since she’s been able to see her daughter — she even started to hold the iPad.

“It was almost like a switch was turned on.”

Carol added talking to her mother without a mask has also allowed them to enjoy their visits and have a few laughs.

Seeing each other has brought peace of mind to Carol and the outside world to Audrey.

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“It’s like being there, it really is. It’s the best thing that’s happened.”

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