Keeping in touch with a loved one in a care home is especially difficult during this epidemic. The restrictions and pleas to stay at home leave many wondering just what is allowable and what isn’t. Compounding this stress is the fact that regulations are constantly changing, and dementia patients may not understand what is going on and why you don’t visit them. A few scenarios and guidelines may help you stay connected, both for your sake and the patient’s.

  1. Care homes may have more severe restrictions on accepting patients than normal. Some may not accept any at all for the time being, due to staffing and quarantine issues. This may affect the choice you make in many ways. If your loved one is being discharged from a hospital and must move to a care facility, you may have little or no choice as to where they go for the time being. Do your best to help them settle in.

  2. Visits to care homes by family and friends are currently very severely restricted. This is to protect you, the staff, and especially the residents, from the virus. Make sure to ask the staff about their particular policies. Here are some scenarios:

  • The only reason that you will be allowed to visit is if you are next of kin and the situation is exceptional — for example, the person is nearing the end of their life. Even then, only one person can visit at once, and you must:

    • wash your hands on entering and leaving.

    • follow good respiratory hygiene: cough or sneeze into a tissue and then discard it.

    • avoid being within 6 feet of other staff and residents.

    • go straight to the person’s room on arrival and leave the home straight after your visit.

  • You may also be asked to wear protective items, such as a face mask and gloves.

Even if you are not able to visit, the home should be able to help with other ways for all residents, family, and staff to keep in touch.

It’s natural to be worried about the person and how they are during the pandemic. Speak to staff about the best way to get updates. Staff are likely to be very busy, so they may ask you to call at a set time.

You may be able to speak to the person directly by phone or through video technology, such as Skype or Zoom. You can also stay in touch by writing or posting photos for staff to share with the person.

If the person is likely to become agitated, ask if you can send favorite objects from home, such as family photos or sensory items such as Fidget Widgets©. Staff may appreciate these as a distraction or way of comforting or reassuring the person.

These are strange and unusual times, but times when people are banding together to help one another. No one is trying to control you or deprive you of time with your loved one. We are all being cautious until this danger is past. Remember: This is not the “new normal;” it’s the “new ABnormal,” and we will soon be back to normal!

South Mountain Memory Care focuses on high-quality, personalized care. The brand new building is a stand-alone memory care community, meaning that the entire building, staff, and programs are designed to serve residents with cognitive issues. To ensure person-centered care and attention, we have accommodations for up to 28 residents. The building is divided into two neighborhoods (wings), each offering 10 private suites and 2 semi-private suites. South Mountain Memory Care is located in the Allentown suburb of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and it is easily accessible from the Lehigh Valley, New Jersey and Philadelphia. For more information, go to http://www.southmountainmemorycare.com/.

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