Tips for Families with Loved Ones in Assisted Living During COVID-19

Tips for Families with Loved Ones in Assisted Living During COVID-19

By Jose A. Garza, DHA, MBA

As COVID-19 sweeps the nation causing people to change their daily routines, administrators at assisted living facilities are making the tough decision to make changes to their facility. With the majority of residents at higher risk of contracting the virus, new measures are implemented to protect the elderly population.  Restricting visitations, closing communal areas, restricting non-essential personnel, and canceling activities are some of the actions the facilities are implementing.  The measures are essential to minimize exposure and decrease the chances of an outbreak within the facility.

With new visitation regulations limiting the people in and out of the facility, residents and families are separated by COVID-19.  This increases the emotional anxiety of families and residents.  While families fear that the assisted living facility could be next to have an outbreak, residents are left scared and flustered with new strict regulations.  Residents are told to remain in their rooms, and with communal areas closed, residents remain isolated.  With the uncertainty of when the crisis will end, keeping in touch is essential.  Below are some tips that could ease emotional anxiety and increase involvement during the crisis.  

Tips

Visit from afar. With in-person visitations being prohibited and restrictions on communal gatherings, residents are left with a lot of time on their hands.  This is an excellent opportunity for families to make time for their loved ones in assisted living and keep in touch more often than never.  Families are turning to technology to communicate with their loved ones.  Some great applications to use are FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, email, and old fashion telephone calls.  For those who have loved ones that are not tech-savvy, now is time to teach them.  Grab the phone, give them a call, and walk them through the application and or send them a link with instructions on how to use the platform.  Another alternative is to drive to the assisted facility and wave from the parking lot or surrounding grounds.  Create a sign and show them that they are not alone during this difficult time.  Be sure it is safe and get permission from the assisted living facility before doing so.

Meals. With the dining room closed for the safety of the residents, residents are eating all three meals in their rooms.  The dining room is a place where most residents find comfort and love to socialize with one another while enjoying their meals.  This is a great opportunity to include your loved ones and enjoy a meal together. Whether it is breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, use technology to have a meal together and enjoy each other's company virtually.

Another option to brighten their day is to deliver a home-cooked meal or use a delivery service to deliver one of their favorite meals.  While you can't physically give the meal to your loved one, the assisted facility should be able to deliver it to your loved one.  Be sure to get permission from the assisted living facility if you decide to provide any food.  Additionally, try to stick to hot food and stay away from any cold food as an extra precaution.

Exercise. Many assisted living facilities have limited visitors, including home healthcare clinicians such as occupational therapists and physical therapists.  As a result, residents who use outside home health agencies have been affected.  It is vital that loved ones continue some kind of routine to prevent regression.  Keeping in mind that safety is first, develop an exercise plan that your loved one can do on their own.  With a handful of resources on hand like YouTube and Google, find videos, links, or PDF files that are easy to follow and safe for your loved ones.  If you don't feel comfortable with this route, call the home health agency your loved was using or discuss it with the assisted living facility.  They should have resources and tips to develop a safe and feasible exercise routine.  

Activities. Many assisted living facilities offer various activities throughout the day to keep residents entertained.  However, with the recent changes to minimize COVID-19 exposure and chances of spreading, all activities have been suspended.  And with most residents isolated to their room, it won't be long before boredom kicks in.  This is the time to be creative and create activities to do with your loved ones during the crisis. Start a book club with your loved ones.  Read a particular book you both would enjoy and set some time aside to discuss chapters.  Become movie critics, watch movies together via an application (FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, etc.) or watch it apart and set up a time to critique the movie.  Happy hour during a crisis is a must, so why not set up a virtual happy hour with your loved one? Grab your cocktails (not necessarily alcohol) sit back, and enjoy.

Conclusion

Normalcy continues to fade as the pandemic becomes more prominent in areas close to home.  And though we are submerged with our own difficulties, it is vital to support loved ones and create healthy habits to combat the crisis.  As we face hardship related to COVID-19, let's not forget about our loved ones in assisted living facilities by keeping in touch.  This is a disheartening time, but creating good habits with those you love in assisted living could alleviate some emotional tension and create some sense of normalcy. 

About the Author

Additional content will be provided upon request.

Jose Garza
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