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Lonely no more: Advocacy group giving nursing home residents Amazon device for free

More than communication, the initiative is about having eyes and ears inside a nursing home.

Family members have been isolated in nursing homes for months and there's no end in sight.

You can imagine just how big of a toll that takes on a mother, father, sister, or brother. An advocacy group wants to give your family a device so you can 'visit' to your loved one's room at any time.

The initiative wants to get an Amazon Echo into your family's hands for free. It's run by the advocacy group Families for Better Care.

One woman says she's seen her mom's mood improve and she thinks it's because they're able to communicate so often. But even more than communication, it's about having eyes and ears inside a nursing home.

Cissy Sanders sees her mom's smile whenever she wants by "dropping in." That's what it's called on the Amazon Echo Show 5. Never heard of it? It works like a video chat that Sanders's mom can work with her voice.

"You feel like you have dropped into the room and there's our mom on the screen," Sanders said. "And we're like 'Mama, we're doing the video thing!' Because my mom's never been big on technology. And she's like 'aw!' and she's got a big smile on her face."

But a disclaimer, Sanders lives in Texas. Florida families haven't taken advantage of this, which Families for Better Care wants to change.

When Jane Black visits her sister in Palatka she has to call and call and then it takes time to bring her sister downstairs.

"She don't even get to come up to the window," said Black. "They park her by the desk and hand her the phone. I want to go inside the nursing home and see where she's sleeping and that they're taking care of her besides just dressing her and bringing her down to us. I want to see about that stuff."

The executive director of Families for Better Care says this allows family members to be needed advocates inside facilities and that that is missing during the pandemic.

"A lot of the advocacy has just vanished in facilities and this is giving families the opportunity to kind of pierce the hole, pierce the veil, and actually get into the facility to see what's going on and make sure their loved ones are safe," said Executive Director Brian Lee.

Black asks, what is there to lose?

"I could just text you the place to sign up if you do want to try it," First Coast News told Black.

"Yeah! Why not?" she said. "Because I would love to see her more than I do."

Sign up to get a device with the Echoes for Elders program here.

Sanders says the pressure to reopen nursing homes is coming from families who miss their loved ones. But as the number of coronavirus cases goes up, this could be the answer to keep nursing homes from reopening too soon.

Sanders' mother was one of only 18 people in her nursing home who tested negative for COVID-19. She saw how the infection was being handled and was sprung into action, which you can learn about here.

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