Social restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic can be especially hard for people who can’t visit loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease who are in nursing homes.
Despite an easing of restrictions, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says nursing homes shouldn’t allow outside visitors until the last phase of its reopening guidelines.
“One of the hardest parts of the COVID-19 pandemic for families who have relatives with Alzheimer’s disease living in a care setting is not being able to see their loved ones in person,” said Jennifer Reeder, director of educational and social services for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
“Many nursing homes are likely to continue limiting or prohibiting outside visitors, given how fast COVID-19 can spread and the high risks to seniors with underlying health conditions,” Reeder added.
However, there are several ways families can stay connected from afar, she said in a foundation news release.
Use technology. Video chat platforms like FaceTime, Zoom or Skype allow you to see and talk with your loved one. Many care facilities provide this type of service, so ask if it’s available. Phone calls, emails and letters are also good ways to keep in touch.
Send a care package. Drop off some of your loved one’s favorite snacks, trinkets and other fun items to give them comfort, improve their mood and reduce stress or anxiety. Check with the care center first to find out if any items are prohibited for health reasons.
Share photos. Some care centers regularly send pictures of their residents to loved ones and also invite families to send photos in return. Sending residents family photos can help trigger memories.
Get updates. Ask the staff for regular updates on your loved one. If he or she requires physical or occupational therapy, or personal care services such as nail clipping, find out how these services are being provided or what alternatives are in place.
Ask about activity programs. Music, art, dance/movement, crafts and exercise programs can help keep your loved one engaged and active.
In addition, all care facilities are required to have plans to monitor and prevent infections and should be able to provide you with information about these measures if you ask.
The Alzheimer’s Association has more on the coronavirus pandemic.