Stay Connected to Loved Ones in Long-Term Care Facilities During A Pandemic

May 9, 2020

By: Nicole Ladas

With restrictions on in-person visiting in long-term care facilities during the coronavirus pandemic, families face the challenge of staying emotionally close and present in the lives of their loved ones. The lack of family contact and attention can create anxiety and feelings of isolation for the resident, plus stress for worried families and friends used to visiting in person.

While in-person visits are not possible, there are ways to brighten someone’s day when you can’t be there. Here are five ideas for staying emotionally connected to loved ones while visitor restrictions are in place:

  • Send snail mail. Everyone loves mail – cards and letters are welcome and remain a timeless way to bring a smile and tell someone you are thinking about them. Write a quick update about routine family activities. It will be reassuring that you are okay during this health crisis. Plus, your familiar handwriting will be comforting to your loved one and a genuine connection to you. Bonus: this family project will be enjoyable for your crew staying at home, fill the extra time you have and reduce your own anxiety.
  • A picture is worth 1,000 words. Create a picture book with recent and past photos of what you and the family have been up to. It can be as simple as a few pages printed on your home printer and stapled together or a poster board assortment. Include captions identifying family members and friends, with a small description. Most facilities will accept envelopes or packages at the front desk and deliver to the room if you want to drop off in person.
  • Have a window visit. Many facilities will schedule a specific time for your family to “meet” your loved one through a window on the ground floor. You’ll be on the outside, they will be safely on the inside. You can chat – almost in person – and share smiles, laughs and a touch through the glass. For a special occasion, like a birthday or holiday, handmade signs are an extra special sight, too.
  • Plan a virtual visit. With apps like FaceTime, Zoom and Skype, you can meet virtually with your loved one, up close and personal. Ask the care team to help dial-in your loved one to the call. Often times, facilities have iPads for easier viewing. Otherwise, a cell phone will work just fine.
  • Create a phone chain. Make a schedule of different family members and friends to each call your loved one on a specific day. This is a great way to connect others also feeling isolated, especially seniors and those living alone, with your loved one. Plus, a regular daily phone call gives them something to look forward to.

Physical restrictions on visitation don’t have to prevent you from staying close at heart and emotionally close and “connected” to your loved ones living in assisted living, rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes. You can easily adapt and use innovative ways to lift their spirits, and your own, bringing everyone involved a true sense of joy and closeness.

Contact the facility administrator and ask about how they can assist in facilitating window visits, virtual visits via iPad or smartphone, and accepting mail and packages.

Next Steps & Resources

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.