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Non-Profit Worker Connects Loved Ones to Long-Term Care Facilities

Teresa Jenna helped Northern California facility residents reach their families on donated tablets

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Teresa Jenna, 63, worked abroad in humanitarian aid and relief for 38 years before joining the development department at Casa de Modesto in California.
Max Whittaker

Everyone is affected by this pandemic, but I've seen firsthand how hard it is on people who live in skilled nursing facilities. I work at a nonprofit care facility in Modesto, California, and my mother, who's 87, lives at a senior-living community in Sacramento, 75 miles from here. Of course, she and her neighbors are tough. Many lived through World War II. But it's their family and friends who keep them going emotionally, and that contact has been cut off. People are asking themselves, Is this the way life will end, without family nearby? There's a profound sadness, fear and feeling of loss.

I worked for decades as an aid worker around the globe and moved back to the U.S. late last year, to be near my mom. They're taking great precautions in her community, so I haven't been able to visit her. I don't want to sound like I feel sorry for myself — many families are going through this. But it is ironic. I moved from across the world to be able to spend weekends with my mom. And COVID-19 changed everything.

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That's why I was so determined to help other families connect. Our residents may have to be isolated for some time; they can't even share activities with each other or leave the building to walk outside. They needed a way to see the people they love.

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Vivian Jenna, 87, talks on the phone with her daughter, Teresa Jenna, in Sacramento, California, April 6, 2020.
Mathew Scott

So we appealed to the local community to donate new or used tablet computers, and we received quite a few. Now nurses can help residents visit with families over video calls, and the families of hospice patients can be with them, albeit only virtually, in their final hours. It's the kind of donation a lot of nonprofits like ours can really use.

Everyone is so appreciative. The daughter of a resident called the other day to thank us. “We need to see our mom,” she said. “This is the best thing you could have done."

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