Now’s the Time for Effective Conversations


Now’s the Time for Effective Conversations


Since news last week of a nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., with residents who have the coronavirus, I can’t stop thinking of the heartbreak of that situation. How horrible that situation must be for families who can’t be with their loved ones and must feel utterly helpless.

As family caregivers, we are naturally trained to be right there for our loved one to ensure they receive the best possible care. We are naturally wired to be there for our loved ones when they need love and comfort and kindness the most. We believe it’s our most important act to be there during our loved one's last days and moments.

How awful when we can’t.

The New York Times published an article today with interviews of the families of the residents of the nursing home (‘It’s Pure Panic’: A Wrenching Wait at Nursing Home Where Coronavirus Took Hold). It’s as sad a situation as you would think.

Tips for Staying Connected with Loved Ones in Long-Term Care During a Crisis

I’ve been thinking what we can do to ensure different outcomes going forward. Some suggestions if your loved one resides in a facility:

  1. Ask the management now about the communication strategy in case of an outbreak. How will they keep you up-to-date on the overall situation? How can you receive updates specifically about your loved one?
  2. In addition, ask how they are working to prevent an outbreak and how they plan to manage one if it happens.
  3. During your next visit, look at your loved one's room with fresh eyes. What photos and messages can you add to ensure your loved one sees your love if you can’t be there? What cards and letters can you leave that perhaps a staff member could read to your loved one that expresses your love? What prayers cards, if appropriate, could you leave? What items could you leave that your loved one could hold? What items, like perhaps plastic flowers and plants, could warm the surroundings while lasting as long as necessary?
  4. What messages could you record for your loved one? For instance, MaxiAids makes a talking photo album featuring your recorded messages. You may find a similar product that makes it easy for your loved one to hear your voice. (I’ve not used the talking photo album so can’t verify how well it works but wanted to offer an idea.)
  5. Post a “Preferences” sheet about your loved one's likes and dislikes as well as needs and wants so it’s easily accessible to staff. If there’s an outbreak, the facility may bring in new staff members. Any insights you can offer to help them best care for your loved one will be appreciated.
  6. Ask the facility about technology options it could implement now which could keep communication easier between you and the staff.
  7. Ask the management how they plan to keep staff healthy and how they plan to have enough staff in case of an outbreak.
  8. Ask the management how they’ll keep supplies on hand to last the the duration of a quarantine.

We do so much that it’s horrible when we feel we can’t do anything. Sometimes situations are beyond our control. We can plan and prepare to the best of our abilities. We can ask the important questions, begin and continue the important conversations. We also can give ourselves grace that we are doing all that we humanly can.

Finally, I do not believe our loved ones ever die alone. I believe an angel squad, including family members who have already passed, surround us during our last hours. The angel squad fluffs the pillows, holds the hands, recites the prayers. The angel squad shares messages of love and comfort and kindness. At our loved one's end, we can take solace in knowing we have heavenly help.

What tips would you add to my list? What concerns do you have about your loved one and yourself?

For additional information on care planning through a crisis, read Tips to Create a Plan for the “What Ifs” (Including Coronavirus).

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Thanks, Denise, for this thoughtful post with specific suggestions for actions.