Keeping in Contact with Loved Ones During COVID19

The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is impacting hospice care facilities, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities all across the country.  Loved ones are not able to visit their family members or friends in person.  However, there are other ways to show your love.  Many facilities in Florida are implementing helpful measures.  If the facility your loved one is in has not suggested these measures, you should.

Use of Zoom, Facetime and Skype are used in many facilities.  The technology must be owned by the facility and not the personal phone of the family or employees.  If your loved one can use their own phone, then it is easy to accomplish such communication.  The difficulty with communication is with low functioning residents, such as those in the nursing home or memory care.  If you are allowed a short period of time to communicate face to face, make sure you are prepared to capture their attention with the family together on Skype.  Bring some familiar music to play for them, even for a few minutes.  For those with advanced Alzheimer’s or dementia, be ready to play their old favorite music of their younger years.  Overall, for video chat prepared on video to show bring in the favorite faces, pictures and music in the few minutes you will have with them.

Some facilities still allow deliveries.  Some are allowing food, flowers, etc.  Again, depending on how high functioning your loved one is, a delivery will show that you have not abandoned them.

Some facilities will allow you to email artwork.  Caregivers can print them out and give them to the loved one.  Because of the nature of the virus, they will not accept paper from the family. 

We have all seen the heartbreaking photos of loved ones reaching for each other through the window on ground floor rooms.  It shows the reality of separation.  Being able to see one another and then talk on the phone at the same time assures that the family would visit them if they could.  If your loved one is high functioning and can see you and understand the situation, this approach would provide comfort to them.

This is not a recommended measure unless your loved one is ready for discharge (such as rehab facility) but it is still an option. If the resident is removed from the facility, be careful to fully understand the implications such as loss of public benefits (such as Medicaid institutional care benefits) and the loss of the room.  There is no guarantee your loved one would be able to return.

So much is now taken out of your control.  You are unable to monitor the slightest details of their care now.  Are they comfortable? Are they clean? Are they hurting?  Did they remember to turn on their favorite movies or music?  Are they declining?  Do they understand why you have not visited them?  Pray for peace and comfort of your loved one and yourself.  Pray for protection from the disease.

If your loved one is in an end stage condition and cannot speak or communicate with you other than human touch, this period of time is understandably painful.  At this point, your loved one will no longer have the touch, hug and kisses and the overall one on one attention of family.  Basic needs that family members intuitively notice, such as pain or help needed in other ways, will now have to be put on hold.  Nursing home facilities, no matter how attentive they may be, managing 8-12 residents at a time, cannot possibly provide the support that family member can.  Even so, thank the CNAs and nurses for their dedication. They are doing their best and now their job is now much more difficult and riskier.  Use these suggestions above to make this time easier for everyone.

Image credit goes to: Premier Living & Rehab Center