As many nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and other long-term-care settings close their doors to outsiders for safety reasons amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is proving tips on how families can still stay connected with a loved one in a care setting.
“Right now, families across the country cannot visit their relatives in long-term-care settings, and while they can’t be there with them in person, they can, and should, still be there for them,” says Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “There are other ways that individuals can remain connected with a loved one with Alzheimer’s from anywhere.”
AFA offers the following suggestions:
- Speak to the care setting. Keep in touch with the care setting’s staff to get regular updates on your loved one and make sure they are safe.
- Utilize technology to stay connected. Many care settings are helping families stay connected through video chat, such as FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom. Ask your loved one’s care setting if they offer this type of service. Phone calls, emails, and letters are also good ways to keep in touch and stay connected.
- Have a dialogue through photographs. Some care settings are working with families to regularly send pictures of their residents to their loved ones and encouraging families to send photos back for the residents to see. In some cases, they’ll encourage “themed” photos (e.g. wearing a funny hat) to keep things fun and engaging.
- Send care packages. Familiarity often helps reduce stress and improve mood, so sending favorite snacks, trinkets, lotions, or activities to the person can be helpful. Check with the care setting before sending to see if there are any items they do not allow for health reasons.
- Don’t panic. According to officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Health Care Association, moving an older adult from a long-term-care center and exposing them to more people and places is risky and could have long-lasting impacts. Additionally, the levels of care needed for residents in a professional care setting are usually higher than those that can generally be provided at home. All care settings are required to have plans in place to monitor and prevent infections and safeguard the health of their residents and staff, and will provide you with information about these procedures if you ask.
AFA’s Helpline, staffed entirely by licensed social workers, is available seven days a week to answer questions about this topic, caregiving during the coronavirus outbreak, and more. You can reach the Helpline by:
- Calling 866-232-8484
- Visiting www.alzfdn.org and clicking on the blue and white chat icon in the lower righthand corner of the page
- Sending a text message to 646-586-5283.