It has been more than a month since Valerie Raineri has been able to visit her twin sister, Renee, at her home at AHRC NYC’s Bloomberg Apartments in Queens. “It’s been a crazy time. This is the longest I’ve been separated from her. We missed our birthday together earlier in April.”

Families are craving connections with their loved ones now more than ever. With Valerie living in Long Island and unable to visit the residence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff members have found a solution until the sisters can be together in person again.

Making the Call

I had asked the staff to set up FaceTime appointments so I can still see Renee,” Valerie said. “If I’m not able to come in from the Island I could always see her and see how she looks on the phone. Not seeing her for this long can get to you a little bit.” Valerie said she previously spoke to Renee every night at 7:00 over the phone, but with staff assistance, Renee can now use her iPad to communicate with her sister.

I think Renee was a little confused by FaceTime at first but it made me feel better to see her, and she soon recognized it was me on the screen,” Valerie said. “She loves the staff and she likes her roommates, but I know she misses me and I miss her. Renee doesn’t understand why we can’t see each other now.”

Bloomberg staff has assisted other families with remote communication, as well. “There are two other residents in a different apartment that have been staying in contact with loved ones through a video chatting app,” said Nieghel Downer, Treatment Coordinator. “The families seem to be greatly appreciative when they do get to see the faces of their loved ones, so that is reassuring. In a time where social distancing has been enforced, families have not been able to see the ones they love the most and such a thought can be nerve-racking. We believe virtual visits can be the solution to this.”

FILE PHOTO Renee Raineri with her family at a local salon

FILE PHOTO: Renee Raineri with her family at a local salon

Admirable Staff Members

Valerie said Renee has been able to maintain her general routines and her overall happiness thanks to the dedication of Bloomberg staff members. “They’ve been great. I call and ask how they are as much as I can,” she said. “I worry about them—many of them are taking public transit to work every day.”

Peter Green, Residence Manager, said that he is seeing the strength inside of his colleagues revealed each day they come to work. “In situations like this you get to find out everything about the staff you are working with,” Peter said. “Fear is something that each person has to deal with individually. Everyone knows that by coming to work each day it’s a risk for the family members that you are leaving at home. Thankfully the vast majority of the staff have come to work and performed admirably under such difficult circumstances.”

The essential employees at Bloomberg are helping Valerie keep her commitment to her family. “I promised my mom [Joan Raineri, a former AHRC NYC Board Member] right before she died that I would take care of my dad and my sister and right now I feel a little helpless. But I have total faith in AHRC and the staff at Bloomberg,” Valerie said. “They are heroes. I have the security that every day that Renee is there she is in a safe place.”