The holidays are typically a time for family, friends, and letting loved ones know just how much they mean. Connecting with loved ones living in long-term care facilities can prove to be challenging. Connecting with loved ones in a facility during a pandemic might seem nearly impossible.
The holidays will be a bit different this year, but that doesn’t mean anyone will be left out. Here are some ideas to connect with loved ones in nursing homes during the holidays (in the midst of COVID-19):
In a time of separation, finding ways to stay connected is crucial to our well-being. Luckily we have several forms of modern technology available that can connect loved ones from afar.
Tablets and other smart devices with video chatting apps provide face-to-face interactions without the intermixing of germs. Technology can be made simple with the right help, apps, and instruction, giving the patient the easiest and most pleasant experience possible.
Nothing beats in-person contact, but seeing the smiling face of a loved one through a screen, talking, laughing, and reminiscing, will alleviate feelings of isolation.
Smart devices also allow for contact through email and messaging, providing a direct line to the nursing home resident. Social media is another option that would supply the patient with access to friends and family members. They will be connected through photos and videos posted by loved ones and will feel closer to those out of reach.
Learning to use technology might take a little time for a nursing home resident, but the close interactions made in the long run will be invaluable. Start slow and simple, and you will see the patient’s spirits rise with each social exchange.
The best gifts for those in long-term care facilities are gifts that help them connect with loved ones and gifts that promote emotional well-being.
Tablets: A tablet might initially overwhelm a patient; however, with some basic modifications, the learning process will be straightforward. Add any apps necessary for video chat and messaging, set up a simple email for the patient, and make sure WiFi or data will be available – all BEFORE giving the gift. This way, the resident can go straight to connecting without stressing over setting up a new device.
Puzzles and other games: Nursing home residents require fun and entertainment, just like everyone else. An idle mind for a patient will aggravate loneliness. So puzzles and other games —crossword puzzles, card games, sudoku, word searches, etc. — help maintain brain function and provide entertainment.
Plants: Plants add comfort and peace to personal spaces. They connect the residents with nature and give them a project to maintain. Send a simple, durable plant to your loved one to lighten the mood and improve his or her overall health and well-being..
Edibles: Treats and snacks play prominent parts in holiday culture. Edible gifts are practical but can also be sentimental for a resident away from family. Tasting familiar treats from loved ones will put the patient right in the dining room with her family once again.
Visiting patients in nursing homes is currently not recommended by the CDC due to the fragility of most long-term care residents. The virus has continued to spread and will not stop for the holiday season.
Finding ways to connect from afar is crucial and highly recommended to ensure loved ones’ safety in facilities.
If visitation is allowed and desired, take a COVID-19 test beforehand. If the results are negative and no symptoms are present, it is still necessary to maintain social distancing from patients and to wear a mask at all times.
Celebrating the holidays with a loved one in a nursing home will be atypical, but that’s okay. The most important aspect of the situation is that the patient stays as healthy (mentally and physically) as possible. Connect and make your loved one know that he or she is not forgotten.
Create new traditions and sustain as much social contact as possible. The holidays are still a time for family and friends, whether we celebrate in the same room or across the country.
About the Author
Carly Commiato is currently teaching junior high at a small town district. She has a degree in Exercise Physiology and an ACSM Exercise Physiologist (EP-C) Certification. In her spare time, Carly enjoys babysitting for her friends and spending time outdoors.