Support for Nursing Home Residents During Pandemic

Posted on Dec 23, 2020 by

Park View Health Center resident Chris Kaiko visits virtually with Odie, the family dog.

The holiday season can be a lonely time for many people. This year, however, there’s an extra hurdle, especially for individuals in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

“The restriction of visitors and nonessential personnel to these facilities has created a heart-wrenching tension,” says Tim Laurin, Lead Activities Specialist at Park View Health Center, “between protecting medically fragile individuals from the virus and cutting them off from outside support and connection, which we know is vital to their overall well-being.”

Luckily, there has been a surge of creativity by many local residential care facilities amid the crisis.

Several facilities hosted outdoor—or window—visits to facilitate contact with loved ones during summer. As we enter the winter season, technology has become critical in maintaining connection between families and friends.

Recent grants from the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation totaling almost $28,000 have been awarded to Park View Health Center, Miravida Living and Evergreen Retirement Community. The bulk of the grant money will pay for new technology to keep residents connected but safe in the age of COVID-19.

Twenty-four tablet computers will help residents keep in touch with loved ones through virtual visits. And upgraded closed-circuit television systems will help the facilities livestream worship services, sing-a-longs, family visits, exercise sessions, resident broadcasts, cooking demonstrations, and more.

5 Tips to Stay Connected when Visits are Restricted

Establish a regular contact schedule and stick to it religiously. Knowing when to expect a call from you can help your loved one feel more secure and connected during an uncertain time.

Talk on the telephone. A good old-fashioned phone call is a wonderful way to stay connected. Take turns with family members to call daily to say “good morning” or “good night.”

Video calls on a computer or mobile phone. There’s extra comfort and reassurance in seeing someone’s face.

Drop off letters or care packages. If this is allowed, put together a bag of basic supplies, favorite snacks, or comfort items and drop it off for them. Include special photos or a handwritten letter.

Encourage family and friends to send letters and cards. Everyone loves to get mail, especially when we’re feeling disconnected and isolated.

For long-time Park View Health Center resident Chris Kaiko, the benefits of virtual visits could not be clearer. Injuries from a 2008 car accident limit Chris to non-verbal communication using one hand to respond to yes/no questions.

Before the coronavirus, his stepfather Don Koehler played a very active role in Chris’ physical therapy with daily visits. The two shared a special means of non-verbal communication.

“When I had to stop visiting in person, it was really hard,” shares Don. “There was frustration as I wasn’t able to provide my personal touch and encouragement and needed to rely entirely on Park View staff and nurses.”

Thanks to daily FaceTime calls, Don is again able to connect with his stepson and participate differently in Chris’ physical therapy. “Our family German Shephard Odie has come to recognize the FaceTime ring tone and immediately comes running to the phone with his ball,” adds Don. Playing catch has always been a loved physical therapy activity for both Chris and Odie.

“Visiting with our elders via virtual pathways may not seem like a significant means of connection, however we are finding it to be absolutely paramount to the psychosocial well-being of those we are trying to protect during this time,” says Krissy Reierson, Director of Nursing at Bethel Home.

Grants were supported by the following Oshkosh Area Community Foundation funds: the Oshkosh COVID-19 Relief Fund, the Ladies Benevolent Society: Advocates for Older Adults Fund, and the Community Impact Fund.

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