One of the hardest things about controlling the spread of COVID -19 in vulnerable populations is the need for practices that are inherently creating isolation. We know as providers for folks in their best elder years, that isolation is already a huge contributor to decline in mood and overall function. More than any other adult time of life perhaps, the years following retirement age are made so much healthier with social interaction to create a sense of belonging and worth. So in these times of mandated isolation in both facilities and the community at large, what are some ways that social interaction can be safely undertaken?
Window Visits - many families, assisted living homes and long term care facilities have initiated window visits. These allow families and friends to visit and speak through a window with enough distance for masks to be removed to allow for those who are hard of hearing to see facial expressions and read lips.
FaceTime/Facebook Messenger/What’s App - for those who are tech savvy enough (or have a good friend/staff to help), this interface can be used to have video chats. Again, this allows for the elderly person to see facial expressions and mouth reading for those who are hearing impaired.
Outdoor Socially Distanced Visits - a nice safe outdoor space is a great place to wear masks and sit together (with some space for germs in between) and visit. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, this is ideal between May and October. But in warmer places like Arizona, the hot summer weather will dictate how safe this is for folks.
Walking Together Outside - another nice fair weather option is to walk together. If both are able to have masks on and move to outside spaces, the likelihood of germ transmission is low. Exercise is another great way to improve health and mood. Combining this with a visit from a friend or family member is an ideal way to boost health for all.
Physical Barriers - some folks have adopted physical barriers (such as plastic dividers) to help them visit with their loved ones. When used appropriately, these allow folks to sit more closely and still see the faces of their loved ones. Some ingenious folks have even used long sleeve gloves to allow for hug guards :)
Writing a letter - who doesn’t like receiving a nice hand written letter? If your elderly loved one cannot read due to dementia or vision impairment, they may still enjoy getting a picture or having someone else read the letter to them.
Baking cookies - food and other surfaces are not known to be a significantly risky way of spreading COVID-19. So why not bake some cookies for your elderly friend or family? Most facilities are allowing deliveries of such items and we think this is a great way to show love. Maybe include a picture or a letter to your loved one along with the food.
These are just a few of many possible ways that we promote interaction at Villa Hermosa Assisted Living. We know that nothing takes the place of physical interactions and so until we are back in that space, we are all doing our best to keep everyone safe and mentally as healthy as we can.
We want to continue working on making sure the needs of all residents are met. We are happy to hear your new family traditions that have developed out of COVID times. Together we can all help stop the spread.