George Brown student creates model for virtual connection in long-term care

A George Brown College student created a model for online connection for long-term care residents living under pandemic restrictions.  

Cassandra Koss completed the Interprofessional Complex and Long-Term Care program this spring. As part of the program, she completed a capstone project while working in a long-term care facility in Toronto. She was there during a COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown and saw the effects isolation had on the seniors.  

Health Sciences grad Cassandra Koss

“If they’re in an outbreak, they’re facing the worst effects of this pandemic,” Cassandra said, adding that in lockdown, residents are confined to their rooms. “It makes it hard for them to connect with anyone other than staff.”  

Working in the activation department, Cassandra and staff would schedule one-on-one meetings with residents, which was all that was allowed at the time under COVID protocols.  

“I thought of this idea to connect residents to other residents virtually,” she said. “We were already connecting residents to their families virtually. But what about those residents that don’t have outside relationships? What about the residents who don’t want to talk to their kids every weekend and want to talk to someone new?”   

For her program’s capstone project, she developed a resident-to-resident virtual connection program using video conferencing software on tablets to reduce the decline of residents’ mental health and improve their quality of life “while also decreasing feelings of isolation.”  

Her proposal targeted three groups of residents: (a) those with dementia, (b) residents who are already friends, and (c) residents who don’t know each other.  

“Not only is it something they can look forward to, connecting to other people, but it’s also something they can learn,” Cassandra said. “I think introducing the technology to them is a great thing in itself.”  

Cassandra worked with six residents to test her concept. She created a framework to use post-pandemic, particularly for residents who like to stay in their rooms and don’t enjoy taking part in group activities.  

Cassandra completed a health studies degree at McMaster and found a job in long-term care. She wanted to pursue her education further and came to George Brown to complete the Interprofessional Complex and Long-Term Care program virtually while working in full-time long-term care.  

Shortly after she finished the program, she landed a management role in a long-term care facility in British Columbia.