In Florida (and across much of the country), senior living communities and other long-term care facilities have barred in-person visitors since mid-March to reduce the spread of COVID-19. While Governor Ron DeSantis is considering options for socially-distanced visits in the near future, there's still a long way to go before families can spend extended periods of time with their loved ones who live in these communities.
To stave off the negative effects of isolation and loneliness on their residents, many senior living communities have devised clever and creative ways to allow for human connections while still respecting the need for social distancing. Here are a few things communities are doing while visitation is still up in the air.
1. Video and FaceTime calls
Much of the world has turned to video chat services like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime to get that "face-to-face" connection during the pandemic, and senior living communities are no exception. Many communities are facilitating video calls between residents and their loved ones by providing technology training and devices to help keep everyone connected.
2. Drive-through and 'through the glass' visits
At this point, residents and their visitors are still not able to be in the same room together. However, some communities have worked around this by scheduling "parades," where residents can gather and watch their family members drive by in their cars, or see each other and chat through the facility's glass windows. It's not quite the same as a real, in-person visit, but physically seeing the faces of family and friends, even from a distance, can help alleviate that detrimental sense of isolation.
3. Outdoor signage with special messages from friends and family
If families or residents are not able to attend an outdoor "visiting" session, many communities have allowed relatives to leave large signs on the facility premises with messages of love and support. Handwritten, private letters are always a nice option, but seniors love seeing a physical, public reminder that their family is thinking of them during these difficult times.
4. Robotic pets
For the last several months, some Florida senior living communities have been experimenting with animatronic therapy pets to help ease the loneliness of its Alzheimer's and dementia residents. Florida's Department of Elder Affairs implemented the initiative as an alternative to traditional pet therapy: Research shows that robotic pets have similar positive effects and can help decrease social isolation in seniors. While not the same as having a "visit" with family members, having a robotic pet may remind seniors of the love and companionship they felt toward a beloved dog or cat from their past.
It may be some time before Governor DeSantis's newly-formed long-term care task force creates a plan to allow for safe, in-person visitation, but for now, families can continue to support their loved ones in Florida senior living communities with the above creative "visiting" options.
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