Making the Move: Here’s how to support loved ones isolated in seniors residences

by Matt Del Vecchio

These unprecedented times have brought hardship to all of us. It has been particularly difficult for families who can no longer see their loved ones in senior residences due to government-imposed but necessary restrictions. Family members and caregivers have been struggling with their new reality. It has been heart-wrenching for some. Yet many are adapting and finding ways to communicate.

I have talked to several family members about how they are  coping with this situation. Many are anxious. They are concerned their loved ones cannot possibly get the attention and care required especially when staff are stretched to the limit. Despite this challenge, family members should engage in social engagement. This is different from social distancing. In fact, social distancing is an inappropriate term. It should actually be called “physical” distancing. Social engagement is crucial especially for seniors in residences.

How to reach out

Increase the number of phone calls from various family members including grandchildren. If you have the technology, encourage video calls through FaceTime, Skype and Zoom.

Some families write and mail letters to their loved ones. It only takes a couple of days for them to receive it. And after all, this is the kind of mail they’ve been used to for most of their lives.

Talk to management at the residence to be sure your loved one’s needs are being met. There are many stories of employees reaching out to residents. In one case, the rental agent of a residence was kind enough to print pictures of a newborn great grandson on behalf of an out-of-town family member. He brought them to the apartment of the proud great grandmother.

There have also been families who have arranged with management to bring a resident down to the main floor and be greeted by family members holding signs of love and affection from the outside.

In addition, some residences have been creative for individuals or couples looking to move into their residence by offering virtual tours. This has been particularly helpful for those looking for immediate placement.

Heroic efforts

Speaking of caregivers in residences, I would like to recognize the heroic efforts of these employees. They are dealing with an unprecedented situation. Many are performing double duty including bringing meals to apartments and doing the jobs that family members and private caregivers were doing. I have talked to many of them. They are tired and emotionally drained. Some are being yelled at by anxious family members though it is no fault of their own.

I can say without a doubt that the vast majority of employees are doing their best under incredibly trying circumstances and they will continue to serve their residents compassionately and empathetically. 

Matt Del Vecchio is the owner of Lianas Services Senior Transition Support and host of “Life Unrehearsed” on CJAD800 Sundays at 4pm. mdelvecchio@lianasservices.com

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