Having a loved one in a nursing home often inspires intense emotions. For many, regular visits and calls to their loved ones helps alleviate some of those feelings and puts their minds at ease. However, after the official arrival of the coronavirus to the United States, these visits and calls all but stopped. Although these were necessary steps to protect residents, staff, and families, these changes compounded an already stressful situation by removing family members’ means of managing their emotions.
Lamont Johnson, who lives just a few miles away from his mother’s nursing home, was recently featured in a CNBC story. After the COVID-19 pandemic became widespread, he wasn’t able to visit her for months. “The stress of the situation was amplified by a lack of communication,” according to Johnson. “Oftentimes, no one would answer when he called the nursing home.”
When COVID-19 hit her facility, Kristie Bacher, RN, BS, RAC-CTA, RAC-CT, CPC, QCP, and her staff took action to ensure communication between the facility and residents’ families was in place. They instituted a weekly Zoom call open to all family members. In those calls, the medical director shared updates on COVID at the facility and explained the steps the facility was taking to battle the disease and reduce spread. On a more personal level, the facility had every staff member “buddy” with a resident and regularly report back to their family on how their loved one was doing. “It was all worth the effort,” says Bacher.
Communicating with families during this stressful time is not only required, it can also help your residents and their families immensely. Here's how to better communicate with families during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Denise Winzeler, RN, BSN, LNHA, AAPACN curriculum development specialist.
1. Practice empathy for family members.