Dear Carol: My mom's had dementia for a decade, and she's been living in the memory care unit of a nursing home for three years. The staff there are like family and they’ve been well trained in person-centered care. Now, though, the family is restricted from visiting because the staff is understandably consumed with not allowing the virus into the home.
Hard as it is, I agree with what they’re doing, only I’m afraid that there’s little time for the hands-on, individual care that’s been so valuable. I’m not expecting things to be “normal,” but is there a prayer that Mom is getting the understanding care that she received in the past? How can I keep better tabs on how she’s doing? — MH.
Dear MH: I can only imagine your worry about how your mom’s care is going. Caregivers have always been concerned about their loved ones receiving individualized care, but like so many things, this is now more challenging to monitor.
Assisted living facilities and nursing homes that made a strong effort to deliver person-centered care prior to this virus outbreak will likely do reasonably well now. You are fortunate to know and like the staff, so that should give you some reassurance that they are doing all that they can. Things are certainly different, but many of these caregivers are creative thinkers and will work hard for their residents.
Even though you can’t be there in person, there are still some ways to stay connected:
- Ask for regular phone conversations with a staff member who can tell you how your mom is doing, both emotionally and physically.
- Ask about her medications and how their supply stands. Are there adjustments in medication dosages or any other changes? If so, why?
- Keep records of your talks, including who you spoke with and the date, in case you need to refer to something later.
- Ask them to arrange video or phone visits with your mom if she can't do this on her own. Seeing your face or hearing your voice will make a difference.
- Remember that handwritten notes are still cherished by many. Notes from you, pictures from grandchildren, homemade cards — they are all welcome. Check with the care home first to see what protocol they've put in place.
- Work with the facility, understanding that most of them are doing their best. You can stay on top of your mom’s care with the attitude that you are all in this together.
For now, MH, understand that while you feel painfully separated from your mom, you are doing the best that you can under extreme circumstances. Even though many facilities are battling infections, the majority of even elderly people will recover so while you’ll probably have emotional setbacks, try to remain positive.
Eventually, family members will be able to visit. Many caregivers are now lobbying to do so earlier because they are essential to their loved ones’ ongoing care, so stay tuned for changes in your area for a time when those changes can be made with relative safety.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.