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Older Adults, Families, and Senior Care Communities Working Together During COVID-19 (Ep #004)

Apr 14, 2020

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Episode #004


 

 

We’ve all heard stories of older adults on lock down in their long-term care community. Maybe you’ve even seen the images of family members visiting their loved ones separated by windows or glass.  Like a granddaughter sharing her engagement ring, a son sitting outside talking on the phone with his dad inside his apartment, or a couple presenting their newborn to the grandfather. 

 

 As a Psychologist who specializes with older adults and families, and who provides a lot of education and training to long-term care communities, I have the unique opportunity to see into the inner world of the older adult living in a long-term care community, the concerned family member, and the long-term care community and it's staff as well.

 

In this episode, I explore the common emotional experiences during COVID-19 of older adults, their families, and the senior care communities they live in. And, I’ll offer recommendations for helping each group to improve their quality of life and strengthen their relationships to one another during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s a look at what I talk about in this episode…

  • [07:43] Even without COVID-19, moving into a senior care community is an adjustment for even the healthiest of families and older adults. I talk a little bit about this adjustment here.
  • [11:33] I describe the common experiences and feelings of older adults living in quarantine or "lock-down" in a senior care community
  • [16:49] My biggest concern with older adults living on lock-down in their long-term care community is that it might validate their sense of rejection or abandonment from society
  • [18:37] Family members are desperate for information and tools for helping their loved one living in a senior care community. I describe many of the fears and concerns family members are facing during COVID-19.
  • [21:37] What feelings arise when your older loved one becomes sick and you cannot see them? Family members are experiencing extreme fear, desperation, and distress.
  • [22:30] Senior Care Communities are making many pivots to keep up with CDC guidelines, maintain care for residents, communicate with families, and provide healthy work places for staff.
  • [27:35] Team work makes the dream work for everyone. Learn more about my number one recommendation!
  • [28:11] Learn about what older adults living in senior care communities can do to enhance their quality of life while on quarantine
  • [29:21] Family members have an important role in helping an older adult to live their best life and the senior care community to provide their best care! These recommendations can help!
  • [32:41] Senior Care Communities have a lot on their plate, but a little effort with communication can go a long way. Learn how.

By the end of this episode, you'll have a better understanding of what each group can do to help improve their quality of life and strengthen their relationships with one another during the COVID-19 pandemic... and ultimately improve health and wellness for all!

Click here to listen!

 


 

Summary of Common Experiences During COVID-19 & Recommendations

 

The most important recommendation of all...

The most important recommendation for enhancing quality of life and improving care for older adults living in a senior care community is for everyone to work together as a team. The more we can work together as a team, the healthier everybody is going to be. The following recommendations give some strategies for supporting this recommendation:

 

Older Adults Living in Senior Care Communities

Common Experiences and Feelings During COVID-19:

  • Sense of Powerless
  • Feeling trapped/caged
  • Fear of being a burden
  • Feeling abandoned
  • Forgotten about

Recommendations for Older Adults

  • Look for moments of joy (family and staff want to see you happy)
  • Engage in the activities that the staff are putting on
  • Take care of your health- eat and drink regularly, get out of bed, get fresh air, work on a project, share stories of your life.
  • Recall times in your life that you overcame hardship, think about how you persevered when times were tough
  • Talk with your friends and family

 

Family Members of Older Adults Living in Senior Care Communities

Common Experiences and Feelings During COVID-19

  • Helplessness
  • Desperation
  • Afraid
  • uncertainty

Recommendations for Families

  • Call your loved one regularly. Focus on “quality” phone calls. When you're talking with loved one with dementia, consider some tips from my interview with Gary Glazner from the Alzheimer's Poetry Project.
  • Write letters or send care packages with photos (check and see if care packages are allowed at your loved one's Senior Care Community)
  • Maintain positive communication with the Senior Care Community. Make sure they have your most up to date contact information
  • Identify one family member to be the primary point of contact with the Senior Care Community.  With staff shortages, this can help reduce the burden on the Senior Care Community. 
  • Create a system for the family point person to communicate with the rest of the family and friends- Easy ways to do this are with a Facebook group or a group text.

 

Senior Care Communities

Common Senior Care Experiences and Feelings During COVID-19

  • Overworked and Underpaid
  • Caught in the middle
  • Afraid
  • Unappreciated

Recommendations for Senior Care Communities

  • Create opportunities for sensory stimulation, social stimulation, and physical stimulation. Be clear about what these opportunities are and regularly communicate them with residents and families. For example: Daily outdoor time, assisting residents call their family and friends with zoom, healthy meal options, etc. 
  • Create a shared goal for residents to contribute to (listen to the podcast at timestamp 33:23 for examples)
  • Communicate regularly with family - send a weekly newsletter with activities from the week and pictures of residents and staff. Include important information: like how you are maintaining safety by assessing staff when they enter their shift and leave their shift. Describe how you're sanitizing equipment. Share your protocol for medical changes ( how will you communicate with families about medical changes).  Talk about how you're keeping residents engaged, if services like Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy are still being offered, how family members can communicate with their loved one, and if meals or care packages can be dropped off or delivered.
  • Talk with your residents and reassure them. Let them know that this is a difficult time and they are safe and in warm and loving hands. 
  • Praise your staff. Let them know that the work that they are doing is incredibly important. 

 

Links mentioned in this episode

 


Want tips on maintaining your wellness during COVID-19?

Download my FREE COVID-19 WELLNESS GUIDE for Older Adults!

 


 

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I'm Dr. Regina Koepp

I'm a Board Certified Clinical Psychologist and Gerontologist specializing with older adults and families! As founder and CEO of Gero Champions, LLC and the Psychology of Aging Podcast, my mission is to help mental health and senior care providers meet the mental health and sexual health needs of older adults using up to date, evidence-based, and culturally thoughtful care.

 

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