Because the residents of nursing home and assisted living facilities are particularly at risk due to COVID-19, many of the facilities in our area have enforced strict quarantine measures for residents and limited or stopped all in-person visits from families.
This makes it especially difficult for the residents, who may struggle to feel a sense of connection with others because of the isolation. Depression rates among the elderly are rising, and it’s largely due to the isolation they feel because of the inability for family or friends to visit during this time.
However, there are things you can do to help residents feel a sense of belonging to the broader world and perhaps brighten their day for a bit.
Send Letters and Cards
Even with the post’s difficulties, the mail still gets through. Why not consider sending a weekly card or letter to your loved one? Everyone loves to get good mail, and it lets them know in a solid, physical way that you’re thinking of them. Residents want to know that they haven’t been forgotten, even without the difficulties presented by the pandemic.
If you don’t have a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility but you would like to send a card to residents, perhaps contact a local care facility and ask if they have any such programs.
Video or Facetime
If your loved one has a cell phone (and is signed up for the service you want to use), you could video or Facetime with them instead of giving them a phone call. They then get to see your lovely face and interact with you in a more personal way.
However, some elderly folks don’t even have a smartphone or laptop with a camera. To address this, some care facilities are purchasing a couple iPads or tablets and creating an app of their own to take around to residents. Families can make an appointment and one of the staff goes to the resident’s room with the tablet and facilitates the video call through their equipment. If you have a loved one in a care facility but they are without an appropriate phone, ask if the facility is looking into a similar program.
Send a Gift
Does your loved one enjoy puzzles? How about crosswords or sudoku? Many times, you can purchase a small gift and have it sent directly to the care facility and staff will deliver it to the appropriate resident. You certainly don’t have to break the bank, but sending a small gift of something you know they like and would enjoy is a nice idea to make sure they know you remember them and care for them. However, it may not be a good idea to send flowers or consumables without clearing it with the receptionist of the facility first. Sometimes these need to be signed for, or it may be difficult for the delivery person to actually hand it to someone at the building because of COVID restrictions. It would be wiser and easier to choose something easy that is in a simple box.
Stand Outside and Call
In some cases, your loved one may be able to see you from a window if they’re near the parking lot or a walking path. Check that this is OK with the facility first, but you could imitate an in-person visit by essentially standing outside their window and having them look outside while you talk on the phone together. Until in-person visits are allowed again, it may be the closest we can come to imitating that kind of visit.
Of course, follow all local regulations and guidelines during this time to ensure the safety of yourself and others.