If you’re working in a skilled nursing facility, you’re very aware of the challenges COVID-19 presents to your residents’ emotional health. Not only are they not able to visit with their family during lockdown—many of the things they counted on for social interaction, like community meals and recreational activities are also now restricted. Loneliness, depression, and anxiety can easily overwhelm them, which in turn can affect their ability to fight off illness if contracted.
As their healthcare provider, it is your job to not only care for their physical health, but also their overall morale. It’s important to keep residents in a good mental space, and provide positive distractions from pain that can lead to things like depression, anger, and resentment. Right now, things are hectic, and it can be difficult to attend to every residents’ emotional needs when your team is busy with new sanitation practices and all other responsibilities the job entails. Below, we’ve come up with a few ways you can boost your residents’ morale without adding too many new tasks to your daily routine.
1. Use communication avenues your residents already understand
The truth is, you might not have time to teach each patient individually how to video call, or use other forms of communication through technology. If you do, that’s wonderful! Now is a great time to show seniors the possibilities they have to connect with family. But if you don’t have the luxury of time, don’t forget that video calls aren’t the only option for outside communication. Encourage your residents to make phone calls, send emails, or text regularly (if they already know how)! If they are lonely, they might begin feeling hopeless and forget about the opportunities that are still available to them! Some residents may already be tech-savvy, too. If they do know how to video chat, make sure they have the resources to do so, whether they use a phone, community iPad, or computer nearby.
2. Keep a regular contact schedule
Make sure that you are checking in on your residents’ emotional well-being regularly, and preferably on a schedule! If they know what time you usually pop in daily to check-in, the consistency will give them something to count on, and look forward to. If you have time in your schedule, even sitting down with them personally for 5-10 minutes to talk about how they are feeling can boost their mood significantly. Most residents experience physical and emotional pain of some sort in various intensities that are proven to be reduced by distraction, humor, social interaction, caring providers, family members, and friends. Just knowing someone nearby cares—not just for their physical health, as they know it is your job to do—but about personal matters will bring them a sense of well-being and ease in the midst of this hard time. (1)
3. Encourage family members to drop off letters and care packages
Though family members are restricted from visiting during this time, they can interact with your residents in other ways! Send out an email to resident family members encouraging them to drop-off care packages with special snacks, games, photos, or anything else they know their loved one will enjoy. A care package will not only be a surprise to your residents, but it might give them a glimpse of hope, and comfort knowing their family is well, and thinking of them. (1) While the CDC states that the virus can live on surfaces from hours to days, take necessary precautions in making sure packages have gone through the necessary incubation period before coming into contact with your residents. (2)
4. Schedule for an entertainer to perform via Skype or Facebook live
You probably know your patients well enough by now to know their favorite celebrities, entertainers, speakers, and more. Though they can’t attend physical events, make them feel like they still can by streaming a video, scheduling a call, or watching a live talk or event through Facebook. Events like these will bring pieces of the outside world to your residents and make them feel like part of the action!
5. Email residents daily trivia and mind games
If your residents have email access through a phone, computer, or iPad, send out daily emails to your community members to keep them engaged. Maybe it’s a hopeful message from a staff member, daily trivia, brainteasers, riddles, or even some positive COVID-19 news to keep them informed and hopeful.
6. Put together a recreational cart
Gather some of your staff members together and create a recreational cart! Compile games, magazines, devotionals, and other deliverables. Each day, a staff member can make a cart round, passing out desired materials to those who are looking for some fun activities to keep them busy. You can even plan for a Snack-Of-The-Day or Drink-Of-The-Day to keep your residents looking forward to a nice treat when the cart comes by. Keep them hydrated and healthy with snacks that will lift their mood instantly!
7. Implement a telehealth platform
Visiting residents room-to-room during COVID-19 can be easier said than done. While in-person interaction is always ideal, you can use technology to communicate with your patients in effective ways that prevent exposure. What if you could video-chat with your residents to check in with them frequently, learning their needs without leaving your office? Another benefit is that residents won’t have to wait for you to make your rounds before they can let you know what they need. With telehealth, you could make your rounds faster, and more often, providing each patient all the care they need. The telehealth platform we offer is called VSTConnect. With VSTConnect, checking in with your patients can be more efficient than ever. To learn more about our platform, visit https://virtusense.ai/vstconnect/