Sunny Hill rolling out app to make it easier  for loved ones to stay connected
Tammy Reiher

Sunny Hill rolling out app to make it easier for loved ones to stay connected

Men’s experiences with family members in nursing home leads to How’s Mom

JOLIET – Sunny Hill Nursing Home of Will County is making it easier for families to keep up with their loved ones, even when they can’t be there.

The How’s Mom app presented by Safekeeping will allow families to have a constant connection to residents’ most recent information any time and from anywhere simply by checking their smartphones or tablets.

Administrator Maggie McDowell said the facility is preparing staff, residents and families for launch. No start date has been set.

McDowell said the app works in conjunction with the nursing home’s existing electronic health record system so when information is put into that system it will be integrated into How’s Mom for participating families.

“Information will be in real time,” McDowell said.

That means families won’t have to wait to find a staff member who can tell them if mom or dad still has a fever, for instance, or check on other health concerns. It also means staff will spend less time making or returning calls because the information will already be available to those on the app. 

How’s Mom is HIPAA compliant. McDowell said that only the person with Power of Attorney may access the information on the app. “The designated Power of Attorney will be tasked with sharing any information they wish with family and friends.”

 In addition to real time health information, the app will also allow Sunny Hill staff to send out mass notifications to families about things going on at the county-owned facility, allow families to schedule meetings and visits, and provide feedback and ratings to the facility.

“The use of this app is an outstanding way to keep our families in touch with their loved ones.  The staff at Sunny Hill is always looking for ways to keep our residents connected,” said County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant. 

“A better way”

How’s Mom is the offering of a trio of Indiana men, two of whom spent hours visiting relatives in a nursing home.

“I spent many months driving two hours back and forth to my mother's care center just to keep tabs on her vitals and get basic updates.  I often arranged my visits to time a meeting with the right doctor, to ask the right question, and to get info about medications and upcoming appointments,” Doug Wilcox writes on the How’s Mom website.

Meanwhile, Matt Prasek, a Ball University student was in a similar situation. His grandfather had suffered a severe injury and was in the same facility. “ …  I spent countless hours at his nursing home, working with his caregivers.  As a student I felt bad constantly badgering facility staff for updates and more information,” he wrote. 

“I'm always looking for a ‘better way’ and started researching senior care communication tools for my entrepreneurship class.  My senior project was named Best New Venture at Ball State, and I started SafeKeeping shortly thereafter.”

Luckily the two men met while Prasek was implementing SafeKeeping at their loved ones’ facility. “In short order, I experienced first-hand the benefits of the platform, and signed on to help Matt build our company beyond its Indiana roots,” Wilcox says on the website.

Don Feige, who had worked with Wilcox many years earlier, had most recently been with ezPBJ, a quality and compliance software company for skilled nursing facilities.  He writes, “After founding, growing and exiting ezPBJ, I saw how my customers could use a solution like SafeKeeping, and joined the team.”

Unfortunately, he soon found himself appreciating the program on a personal level. “Not long after, my aunt and mother both moved to assisted living centers and a pandemic started.  Connecting families worried and stressed about their loved ones isolated in senior care isn't just a job for us, it’s a purpose.”

Prasek said How’s Mom is now used in 36 states and more than 20 facilities in Illinois, although he didn’t think any of them were in Will County, possibly making Sunny Hill the county’s first.

At the County Board’s July meeting, member Judy Ogalla, whose dad is a resident at Sunny Hill, happily recounted the benefits of the program.

“Except I think it should be called How’s Dad,” she said lightly.

When told, Prasek wasn’t surprised.

“We get that sometimes.”



Sunny Hill Nursing Home of Will County will soon be rolling out the How’s Mom app from SafeKeeping. The app will give family members real-time information on their loved ones living the county-owned facility.  (Illustration of How’s Mom app provided by SafeKeeping’s promotional material)

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