Care homes have been gravely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Globally, residential senior care communities have been on lockdown, unable to allow visitors in. As of now, COVID-19 remains a threat and for many parts of the world, cold and flu season is just around the corner. Senior living communities are looking for safe ways to facilitate family visits going forward.
Here's a look at some of the creative ways senior care staff have supporting meaningful connection for residents and their families while adhering to social-distancing guidelines.
COVID-Free Visiting Rooms
In the UK, a few residential care communities have implemented ‘COVID-free visitor rooms’. The supplier, Contacta Systems Ltd, fabricated air-tight, glass-partitioned rooms. These rooms enable residents to have face-to-face conversations with their loved ones. At present, one visitor is allowed at a time.
Many care providers around the world have followed the example of this senior care home in South Brazil. They have made a unique use of their plastic surgical curtains. Dubbed the ‘love tunnel’, this enables residents to embrace their loved ones safely. Visitors, who are scheduled ahead of time to avoid crowding, must have their temperature taken and use hand sanitiser before hugging their relative. “If anyone out there runs a senior living home or facility, I recommend you do this,” Rubia Santos, the facility’s administrator, said in a video posted on the home’s Facebook page. “It is so gratifying to see them hugging each other and so important.”
Pen Pal Programs
In the day and age of texting, DM-ing, and video calling, there is something to be said for a good old-fashioned letter. After all, writing letters is what most elderly people grew up doing when it came to long-distance communication. Who doesn’t love getting a postcard from a far off place or pages of handwritten notes tucked into an envelope? Not only is it a great way for friends and family to stay in touch with their loved one in care, but it is also proving to be a great way for residents to make new friends they otherwise wouldn’t have. Care homes all over the world have taken to social media to find pen pals for their residents. Others have signed up for nation-wide programs that match seniors with children to exchange letters with.
Care Planning Software
Many providers use electronic care management systems to digitally coordinate and record care for their residents. Certain Care Planning Software providers, like StoriiCare, have a designated family app and platform. Families can be connected to their loved one in care, receiving live notifications anytime their loved one participates in an activity and viewing photos and videos uploaded by care staff or their loved one. Friends and relatives can contribute photos, videos, curated playlists and life story material to their loved one’s profile. This material helps staff provide high quality, person-centered care. StoriiCare enables private messaging between care providers and resident families, while also allowing them to quickly send out mass messages to all friends and family using the Community Announcements feature. Connected friends and relatives can sign in to their Storii Family account, view the care community’s Activity Calendar and join video calls if virtual programming is offered. It is a great way to keep connected to a loved one in care during the pandemic.
Another trend being seen amongst nursing homes is car parades. Drive-by parades have been popular for holidays like Mother’s Day, 4th of July, and Easter. Nursing home staff will have residents socially distance outside while friends and family members dive by to blow kisses and say hello to their loved one. Those participating tend to decorate their cars and make poster signs with words of encouragement or messages of affection. “I’ve seen over a hundred cars,” said Sherry Oettle, Director of Nursing at Riverside Rehab and Healthcare. “We have over 60 patients out here and tears are flowing. It’s wonderful.”