A Lifeline to My Son During COVID-19

My son’s nursing home is closed to visitors, but I can still check on him

Donna White took care of her son Josh, who has cerebral palsy, at home for 23 years. He moved into a nursing home three years ago after a bad fall, and she built her daily routine around visiting him twice a day.


This spring when nursing homes shut their doors to visitors in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, she worried she could not give her son the daily care and attention that he needs and deserves.

Fortunately, she says, technology has offered lifeline.

Last year, she bought Josh a 9-by-10-inch Amazon Echo Show, a voice-activated speaker. Now she uses the device to check on him multiple times a day.

“Instead of worrying all the time about what’s happening, I can just look and see what’s happening,” White says.

White says, in the past, when she could not visit in person, she would call Josh on a cellphone. But she had to rely on nursing assistants to answer the phone and bring it to him, since her son has limited mobility. With the Echo Show, she uses a “drop-in” feature, which also allows her to look in without Josh even needing to acknowledge her.

White also invested in a safety feature from Constant Companion, a digital voice-activated assistant that uses the Echo Show to connect Josh to a round-the-clock urgent response system, which gives her an extra level of confidence.

…instead of worrying all the time about what’s happening, I can just look and see what’s happening.

The stress of separation

White knows how stressful lack of contact with a loved one can be. When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, she was separated from Josh and didn’t know where he was for eight days. He had been with a caregiver on one side of the city, and she was on the other side when authorities closed the streets. Soon after, the storm shut down communications systems, making it impossible for her to contact the caregiver. She finally found him safe at a medical center where he and his caregiver had gone to shelter in place.

“That was a learning experience for me: When there’s a crisis, you realize just how vulnerable these people are and how scary it is,” White says.

But she feels far more secure now that Josh is staying connected to his family. In fact, she says, Josh may be getting more visits than ever. She’s not the only one dropping in on him – Josh’s grandmother and three brothers also like to video chat with him.

And Donna looks forward to hearing his voice and being there for him, like she always has been. When he sees her on his video screen, he yells, “Donna!” and she calls him, “Joshy Woshy Pudding and Pie.”