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When your loved one lives at home

As we struggle with the ups and downs of adjusting to our new normal, it is important to keep in mind that even though you and your loved one are social distancing, you are not alone. For caregivers taking care of a loved one at home, these can be particularly challenging times. There are many things you can do to help ensure that you and your loved one continue to thrive.

Things to keep in mind

Routine is very important and can help your day flow smoothly. Maintain a regular bedtime and morning routine. Continue to have meals at consistent times and schedule activities throughout your day to keep you both engaged and active.

Infuse moments of fun and things that you enjoy into every day. Listen to your favorite music, cook your favorite meal, put fresh flowers in a vase. Look for little things every day to make you both smile.

Turn of the TV and step away from the news. It’s important to have variety in your daily schedule. Even simple household chores can help your loved one feel helpful and give you both a sense of satisfaction.

Investigate new ways to stay socially engaged. Facetiming with family and friends can bring a smile to you and your loved one. Make a phone call, mail a card or write a letter.
Be patient with yourself and your loved one.

Make health a priority. Maintain a nutritious diet, get some exercise every day and spend time outdoors.

Advice from a caregiver

Staying home does not mean staying inside”.

For Mary Jane, a caregiver in Fort Worth, getting outside is the best way to combat the frustration that comes with social distancing. Fresh air is a natural stress reliever and helps strengthen the immune system, clean the lungs and improve blood pressure. A table and chairs set up in her fenced back yard offer a pleasant, relaxing and safe place to sit, and doing simple chores like sweeping, raking and weeding help her husband feel productive. Many days, they will go to the park, where Mary Jane likes to walk or look at the river while Roger sits on a bench and watches the ducks or waves to passers-by. The couple finds that enjoying the combination of air, water, earth, animals and people (from a distance) help them focus on positive thoughts while enjoying the health benefits of fresh air and exercise.

Suggestions from caregivers

  • Walks/walking dog
  • Front Lawn visits with neighbors or people watching
  • Repairing, painting rooms, or furniture
  • Sorting/Cleaning - garage, closets
  • Yardwork
  • Baking/Cooking - trying new recipes
  • Going for scenic drives (picnics optional)
  • Movies, Old TV shows
  • Reading Books
  • Painting, drawing, coloring pictures
  • Puzzles - crossword and jigsaw
  • Games - Uno, Blinko, I Spy Card Game
  • Virtual exercise classes
  • Virtual church and Sunday School meetings, Bible Studies or social groups
  • Ordering out food
  • Music, virtual concerts and performances

Additional resources:
  • The Alzheimer’s Association is available 24/7 for around-the-clock care and support through the 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900
  • Use the Community Resource Finder to locate virtual support groups and education programs 
    • Join our telephone support group specifically for caregivers with loved ones at home

When your loved one lives in a facility

Although you may be unable to visit with your loved one in a care community, facilitating effective communication with the staff can help you stay engaged. 

Here are some best practices for communicating with the staff at your loved one’s care community during this COVID-19 crisis:
  • Choose a primary family member to be the liaison for facility communication in order to respect the staff’s time. Also, set up communication within your family so you all stay informed. Consider using group text or email, Google Chats, a Facebook group, or other technology tools to stay connected.
  • Determine the most appropriate staff member to communicate with regularly and how often it is appropriate to touch bases. Come to an agreement on frequency of contact in order to respect your needs as well as their time and ability to communicate with you or your family liaison.
  • If the staff have not already addressed this, ask how you can have virtual contact with your family member. They are likely scheduling telephone calls, video chats, postal letters/cards, regular emails, and/or visits through the window to check in. Determine which methods work best for your family so you can have regular contact.
  • If your loved one is unable to engage in calls, reading letters, or video chats, ask the staff how you can keep in touch with them in order to get regular updates on your loved one’s well-being. They may have additional ideas.
  • Ask if they allow drop off deliveries. If so, consider sending a note, a favorite snack, a magazine, fresh flowers, or a photo album with copies of cherished photos.
  • If deliveries are allowed, consider showing the staff your gratitude by sending letters, snacks, and other goodies they might enjoy during this time and that would remind them how appreciated they are.
If your loved one is able, maybe you’ve already used video chatting or window visits. Those who are not able to participate in this way may be feeling at a loss for how to stay connected. You might not be able to touch, hug, or physically comfort your loved one right now but the staff members can. They are working tirelessly and with the utmost dedication to provide care, support, comfort, meals, engagement, and safety for your loved one. By establishing a mutually agreed upon communication routine, you continue to serve as your loved one’s best advocate. 
Here is how communication and relationships with staff and family is working in one North Texas assisted living and memory care community: 
Patti, the Executive Director, explained that the activities team provides regular communication to all families of her residents via phone, email, and text. They have even set up a spare apartment with a big window so families can schedule time to visit with their loved ones through the window. They also schedule video chat using Skype or FaceTime. Patti goes on to say, 
The families have been so gracious! Some have sent thank you cards, snacks, and even homemade face masks! We just want our families to know we are more dedicated than ever to protecting their loved ones, keeping them safe, and helping them continue to enjoy life through this stressful time. We want to put a smile on our residents’ faces every single day and be able to share that with their families. Establishing regular communication has been the key to helping us continue to provide a bright and happy atmosphere for their loved ones to thrive in.
Here are some other resources to consider as you navigate the challenges of having your loved one in a care community during the COVID-19 pandemic:
  • The Alzheimer’s Association is available 24/7 for around-the-clock care and support through the 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900
  • Use the Community Resource Finder to locate virtual support groups and education programs 
    • Join our telephone support group specifically for care partners whose loved ones live in a care community every Wednesday at 4pm