Local Facilities Make Sure Social Distancing Doesn’t Mean Total Isolation
Nursing homes have been hard hit with the impact of coronavirus. In Wisconsin, visitors are restricted from visiting residents except for situations of compassionate care. Families and residents miss their regular interactions, and it can be a struggle especially for resident to maintain good spirits.
In response, facilities in Wisconsin and elsewhere have turned up the creativity, working diligently to keep surprise, joy and connection in the daily lives of their residents and staff.
Many have come up with activities and events that residents and staff enjoy so much they’ve appealed to administrators to keep them going even when operations go back to a version of normal.
- Many facilities have purchased tablets and smartphones to make it possible for family to Facetime or Skype residents. “For a lot of people, this is all new to them,” said one activities director. “To see their loved one on an iPad or a cellphone…the smiles are unbelievable.”
- In Minnesota, where the restrictions have expanded to include one designated “essential caregiver,” some facilities have created three-sided Plexiglass booths to allow a resident and essential caregiver to visit without a mask, which can be problematic if there’s a hearing or mental impairment. “Connections are important for everybody, any age, any ability or disability,” said a community relations manager.
- A facility in Washington County has developed “hallway cart events.” Residents sit in their doorways while staff members push a cart down the hallway. Each day, the cart has something different, such as root beer floats or ice cream. Residents can enjoy a treat and talk to their neighbors, while observing social distancing.
- Facility staff will try to get a laugh from residents by dressing up as clowns or wearing an inflatable sumo wrestler outfit.
- Other activities developed by staff include wandering the hallways playing their guitars, helping conduct hallway bingo and leading card-writing campaigns to loved ones and staff members
- A favorite at one facility is “noodle ball.” The seniors sit in a circle, six feet apart, while batting a ball around with pool noodles.
- Making paper airplanes and flying them down each hallway (so everybody could see them) was popular.
- Most essential is making it possible for residents to see visitors through windows, along with animal visitors.
Although the focus might be on residents, staff are not excluded from uplifting activities. It’s a time of extraordinary stress for them, too. Facilities are providing daily snacks or weekly catered lunches. One facility set up a “decompression room,” filled with aromatherapy, meditation tapes, puzzles and access to a counselor.
One activities director commented that it’s a great time to try new things to see which are most embraced for boosting spirits. Even after the long haul of COVID-19, there’s no reason special activities and mood-lifting strategies can’t continue.
It’s all about momentum say social workers and psychologists when it comes to raising spirits. Facilities want to come up with activities they can stick with.
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“Long-Term Care Employees Get Creative to Offer Outdoor Visits,” INFORUM, Andee Erickson, July 13, 2020.
“Creative Activities Helping Seniors at Area Nursing Homes Cope with Pandemic,” Observer-Reporter, Jon Andreassi, April 23, 2020.
“COVID-19 Survey: Nursing Homes’ Top Strategies for ‘Keeping Spirits Up,’ McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, James M. Berklan, April 2, 2020.