The COVID-19 pandemic has required more labor from all kinds of essential workers — from doctors to grocery store employees. For JeNai Minor, 29, her IT skills are needed.
Minor works as a wellness coordinator at the Holly Hall retirement community, starting in her position five months ago — right before the coronavirus began spreading in the U.S. Her job consists of engagement and support for residents. New protocols have forced Minor to adapt how residents interact.
What originated as teaching one resident how to video chat with her family led to Minor teaching many of Holly Hall’s 300 residents how to use FaceTime, Zoom, Skype and other technologies to communicate virtually.
When Minor helped one resident, 87-year-old Fran Dunn, video chat with her family, she spread the word to others: “If you need help, if you need anything to contact JeNai Minor in the wellness department.”
“So it started with Zoom, and it spread to fixing the computers, their internet and their Wi-Fi and their printers, and things like that,” Minor said.
Minor has an associate’s degree in engineering technology from Southern University A&M College and is working on her bachelor’s, so she has some expertise in dealing with technical issues. In addition to helping the residents get connected online, she also plans one-on-one activities with the residents to support them through all the worries of the pandemic — especially since family visits have been restricted.
“To take away visits from their families, having lunch together, just getting together and playing cards, all those things that were so important to them and that they look forward to — all of a sudden, everything stopped for them,” said Mark Mullahy, CEO of HollyHall. “JeNai said, ‘How can we safely put these things back into our residence? How can we visit? How can we do some of these things?’”
Dunn, who has lived at Holly Hall for two years, now uses Zoom to attend weekly devotionals, church services and her Sunday School class.
Residents have even been using Zoom to host virtual happy hours once a week, along with development meetings to plan socially distanced activities. It’s easy for many to become withdrawn during this time with feelings of isolation, Mullahy said, but the skills Minor is teaching Holly Hall’s residents mean much more than just a video call.
“I heard a resident say, ‘Why should I get dressed today? I can’t go to the dining room and see my friends,’” Mullahy said. “‘Well, I need to get dressed today because I’m going to have a FaceTime call with my daughter, and it is something that I have to look forward to.’ So she really puts some meaning and purpose back in individuals’ lives.”
Minor also used her skills to surprise the residents on Mother’s Day. She and other Holly Hall staff members enabled families to submit videos for their mothers since they were unable to visit. Minor wheeled a large monitor from room to room, playing the tributes to the residents and “making sure everyone got to see their video,” Mullahy said.
One tribute brought Minor to tears: A resident’s daughter, who is deaf, delivered a message to her mother in sign language, while the resident’s grandson spoke the words aloud.
“It really struck me then. This is real. This is our new lives right now,” Minor said. “This is how we have to communicate because they aren’t able to reach out to their families. Their families aren’t able to come in and give them a hug, or tell them how they’re doing or do things with them. They rely on us to do that.”