What To Do If Your Parent’s Nursing Home Restricts Visitors Due to the Coronavirus

In the wake of the crisis at the Kirkland, Washington nursing home that is the site of the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, many senior living facilities are enacting precautions to decrease the risk of a similar outbreak. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has also issued guidance for, “Infection Prevention and Control for Patients with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 in Nursing Homes,” citing the, “congregate nature and residents served (e.g., older adults often with underlying chronic medical conditions).”

Every day we hear of another nursing home in lockdown or assisted living facility with a restricted visitation policy. These precautions make sense given what we know and still do not know about the spread of the coronavirus. At the same time, they can be incredibly unsettling and stressful for the adult daughters and sons who serve as primary caregivers to their parents who live in these facilities. For those of us who know the joy our parents see when we walk into their rooms -perhaps their only visitor all week, who understand what a source of connection and calm we are for our parents as they age, and who feel the quick sense of fear whenever we knock on their door or call their rooms (will this be the time they are not okay?), being cut off from them, and them from us, is unnerving, and sad.

So what can you do if you are caregiving during coronavirus and your parent’s nursing home or assisted living facility restricts visitors due to the coronavirus?

1. If your parents can operate their phones, call. Check in with them more than you might have in the past. Use the call to listen to their concerns and alleviate your own. If you hear anything disconcerting – that they haven’t eaten or that they need assistance – reach out to the facility staff.

2. Consider shipping a Grandpad or other tablet to your parent so you can connect “face to face.” If you do this, make sure your parent will be able to set up the device or that staff member will be able to assist.

3. If, due to hearing or sight loss, aphasia, or cognitive decline, your parent cannot operate a phone, ask the facility staff what plans they are putting in place for connecting residents to families. If they don’t have a plan, request that they help your parent with a regularly scheduled call- understanding, of course, that the staff is operating under unique and stressful conditions, and may be short-staffed.

4. Ask the staff if they are facilitating Skype calls or Facetime sessions between residents and family members. If they are not, ask them if they can.

5. Write to your parent. Remember letters? Send your parent a card or a note to let them know they are not forgotten.

Do keep in mind that staff at these facilities are operating under extraordinary circumstances and that they may be leaving their own families behind to care for yours. It is okay to ask for help connecting with your parent and to ask for updates on their well-being, but do keep in mind the many competing priorities they are balancing – and tending to ill patients is of course the most critical.

And finally, take measures to manage your stress levels during this time. Acknowledge and honor the sadness and maybe even grief you feel, not being able to see your parent. Seek support from others in your situation. Working Daughter has an active private Facebook support group for family caregivers. You can join here. Download a meditation app (we like Insight Timer), do yoga, take walks, practice gratitude. Control what you can control and accept the (many) things in life that you cannot.

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20 comments on “What To Do If Your Parent’s Nursing Home Restricts Visitors Due to the Coronavirus”

  1. Sandy Reply

    The facility where my Dad lives has large glass panels on each side of the front door. The staff allows the resident to stand inside and we stand outside. We each have our cell phone so we can talk and see each other. Very reassuring for me since he is recovering from a stroke. We also had Happy Hour with the entire family on Zoom. An aid helped him set it up. Thank you for all of your tips. They are helpful.

    • admin Reply

      Thanks for sharing. The staffs at senior living facilities are making such a difference.

  2. Sarah K. Reply

    Luckily, my grandmother is a techie and had no problem setting up Zoom on her computer. My grandmother and I keep in touch through it and talk regularly with the rest of my family.

  3. Sandy Hiss Reply

    My Father has been in a nursing home since Dec 2019. My Mother ended up spending her last few days with him. They were married for 72 years. The Nursing Home has not allowed any guests in since March due to Covid. Mom died in May of this year & service was in June. That was the only time Dad has left the facility. Unfortunately Covid hit last week & Dad has it but only 2 of the 7 symptoms. Today over the phone he’s about had enough. He said I’m in here to die. This is my last stop. I took care of my parents living with them for 5 years. Dad has neuropathy and it was too dangerous to continue taking care of him at home. They can’t get out of there rooms, no activities. What in the world can I do to help him? I certainly can’t blame him

    • admin Reply

      I am sorry for the loss of your mother and for what you are facing with your father. Talk to the nursing home about how they can support your father at this time and what, if any provisions they can make for you to connect with him. Try to support his decisions – he knows what is right for him.

    • liza Reply

      sounds a bit familiar to me – i am also struggling o decide about keeping my mother in assisted living. i’d like to connect with others in this dilemma.

  4. Julia Reply

    I’m also trying to decide if I shod remove my father from the nursing home and get home health for him so I can see him. 8 months is along time being locked up and I don’t see it ending soon. I don’t want my father to die from lonliness.

  5. Jordan jones Reply

    This article pretends to understand the seriousness of this crisis and offers no real solutions. People like me who have lost a parent in skilled care no that the problem is that nursing homes refuse to give families compassionate care visits at least every other day. It is more work than they want to do so they don’t. My father’s PA nursing home held my father like a prisoner and as if he belonged to them and not his family. They gave my father no attention and even though I prepared meals for every day with fresh fruit and other caloric comfort foods they starved my father by not using the needed hours time to feed Dad. They should be charged with neglect, abuse and murder.

    • admin Reply

      I am sorry that happened. The solutions lie at the state and federal level – overhaul and oversight. This article is written for caregivers whoo need to cope until those changes are made.

  6. Kathleen Kiernan Reply

    My mother died Sunday alone. They called and told me she was not doing well. I was allowed to spend 2 hours with her Friday, my end of life visit, and she was gone on Sunday. I was not allowed to touch my mother for almost a year, the residents were not even allowed out of their rooms. I had to wait for her death to hug her. These poor people are so depressed it is like they are in prison.

  7. David MacPhee Reply

    Thank you for this article. I hope it helps people.
    My dad died of isolation last Friday. He was a resident since June and for the first four months we could not see him at all. What sent him into a spiral was the facility denying us visitation for the last month plus, but when we could go see him, they took us to a closed window which only further escalated his decline as he did not know what was going on. I watched his brain turn to jello within a couple of minutes. Unfortunately the grand pad was equally confusing for him.
    I should have taken my pop out of there.
    I want someone to be held responsible.
    Thank you for your time-David MacPhee
    San Antonio TX

    • admin Reply

      I am so sorry for your loss. The isolation this past year has been brutal. I hope you know you did your best for him with the info and resources you had at the time.

  8. Timothy Decker Reply

    Hey admin why don’t you grow a set of nuts and advocate on the side of these lonely seniors who are being tested like incarcerated criminals whose only crime was aging .your sympathies are meaningless without direction on how to do something as simple as holding a mother’s hand. Do you actually think covid is a priority when you and a loved one stare isolation then death in the face. How about some solutions, be helpful. Sympathy is nice but it solves nothing.

  9. Timothy Decker Reply

    Check it out. Refining caregiving is not about saying your sorry for someone’s loss. What kind of statement is that for an organization that does so little to facilitate change. Your pretentiousness is outdone only by your shallow claims of change.

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