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Engaging Families at Your Nursing Home During The Pandemic

engaging families at nursing home during pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on more than just nursing homes and other healthcare facilities. Families have suffered alongside healthcare workers and the families members who call various healthcare communities home. Because of visitation policies excluding any family members from entering a facility (barring something serious like an end of life situation), family members are missing each other and residents are lonely.

Like any healthcare community, chances are you want to include families in the care process. After all, know their family members best. 

So, how can you help your residents and their family members feel more connected while we wait out this pandemic and seek to protect our most vulnerable? 

Accommodate Video Chats

Your residents might not be savvy enough or have the equipment to video chat. But this is probably the easiest way to keep them in touch with their family members. It’s the closest thing to in-person visits because families can see each other.

Many facilities are scaling back on expenses. This is one, however, that we think will pay for itself many times over. Consider purchasing a couple of iPads or tablets and set up an account for your facility. You can then implement a video call schedule so that families can talk to their resident in 30 minute increments.

Create a Pen Pal Program

Kids are out of school and residents are lonely. Consider coordinating a pen pal program between residents and their grandchildren. If certain residents don’t have grandchildren, try developing a program that allows them to connect with lonely children looking to practice reading and writing. 

These programs have become popular on Facebook. If you do create one and need volunteers, be sure to post about it on your local community, homeschooling, and parenting groups.

Organize Drive By Visits

We’ve all seen the adorable (read: tear jerker) pictures on social media of families sitting outside of their loved one’s nursing home or assisted living window and chatting on the phone. It’s basically the low tech version of video chatting.

Considering setting this up for families and making it comfortable for them. Maybe offer chairs to sit outside of their loved one’s window or water if it is hot out. Show them that you support their efforts.

If their loved one’s window is near a parking lot and sitting outside of it would cause problems, then considering (depending on the laws and guidelines set forth), offering a separate room (cleaned between residents), that can be used for these types of visitations.

Talk to Them Regularly

It’s scary out there. Families could feel blind not being able to come in to your facility and more than concerned about their family member’s health. Sometimes, all it takes it to keep family members in the loop about what is happening. 

Try to hop on the phone with family members. Give them your number so they can reach out to you. If you’re a larger facility you might need to have a few point people that are available to families. Make yourself and your team available. It’s absolutely critical that they feel you’re being as transparent as possible with them at all times, but even more so during a time when so much feels “in the dark”.

Encourage Them to Be Advocates

Family members need to know that they can still be advocates for their family members, even when they aren’t in your facility. In fact, you might find that families are more effective advocates because the intensity of in-person communication is removed. 

By encouraging family members to advocate for their family members, you’re showing them you care and want them involved. This might look a little different than it has in the past.

  • Remind them others are also at the facility (entitlement is not the goal)
  • Ask them to share any quirks or nuances of their family member
  • Offer add on options that might help them feel more comfortable with their family member at the facility (hiring a sitter, etc.)
  • Include them on calls to encourage family members to take their meds or accept care they need

Listen, times are tough on everyone. Just because families can’t be with their loved ones in person doesn’t mean they have to go months without being in touch. Show your families that you’re there for them and eager to help them connect with loved ones and you’ll prove that you’re the right choice for them now and after the pandemic.

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