Donated tablets to link Manor residents with friends and loved ones

A group of Manitoulin Centennial Manor residents gather in one of the common rooms overlooking Low Island to work with some of the iPads recently donated to the long term care facility by the Little Current Lions Cllub. Kagawong’s Mike Farquhar was instrumental in facilitating the donation. photo by Julie Omnet

KAGAWONG – For all of the best efforts of dedicated health care workers and other staff, life in a long-term care facility can be terribly isolating—even more so during the age of pandemic. Mike Farquhar of Kagawong, who volunteers quite often at Manitoulin Centennial Manor, noticed that Manor activities co-ordinator Julie Omnet’s iPad was doing double duty with residents and health care professionals to facilitate virtual face-to-face meetings.

“That was very nice, but I really didn’t think it was fair to her and, with only one tablet, not everyone gets a chance to use it,” said Mr. Farquhar. “There were a lot of residents and only one iPad.”

As a long-time community volunteer, when he sees something in the community that needs to be addressed, Mr. Farquhar is not willing to  stand idly by. “It is hard enough to be locked up in there, they can’t even gather in groups in the home,” he said. “I decided to see if we couldn’t get some funding to buy a couple more laptops or something.”

“He got the ball and he ran with it,” said Ms. Omnet. “Mike has quite the following here. He used to come to play music for the residents and then he would send me live videos for the residents. Before things got so totally locked down I could gather a small group of residents in the dining room and put them on the television for them.”

Mr. Farquhar approached the Little Current Lions Club, a service club with which he was a long serving member before moving to Kagawong, to purchase two iPads for the Manor. “They took a vote on my request and it was unanimous,” said Mr. Farquhar. “There are two more coming for the home now.”

“I couldn’t believe it when he called me two days later and told me that the Lions were supplying two iPads,” said Ms. Omnet. “I was just blown away. We are all so grateful to Mike for getting this going and to the Lions who provided the iPads for us.”

Mr. Farquhar said that should these two work out well, he might consider starting up a larger campaign in order to secure more digital platforms to link up folks in the nursing home to their friends and family who are unable to visit. “We will see how this goes,” he said.

One of the added pluses of the digital links, noted Ms. Omnet, is that they mean that distance is not really a factor—not only can those who are close enough to regularly visit their loved ones and friends drop by for a digital face to face, even those loved ones separated by continents will have the opportunity to pop in.

“A lot of the residents have family that live far away, places like Kitchener and British Columbia and they can’t come to do window visits (where residents and their loved ones can see each other through the glass panes),” said Ms. Omnet. “Thank goodness for the back courtyard where the residents can get outside when it is nice.” Some of the residents are also able to visit with loved ones who remain on the other side of a fence, but the ability to meet through Facetime is a precious resource.

“So we want to send out a great big ‘thank you’ from Julie and the folks at the Manor to Mike and the Lions (Club of Little Current) for doing this for our residents,” said Ms. Omnet. “It takes a village—totally.”