Keeping in touch with a person with dementia in a care home through coronavirus

Staying in touch with someone in a care home is made much harder by the pandemic. Visits have been severely restricted. This advice for friends and family should help you stay connected.

Not being able to visit and be with the people we love has been one of the hardest aspects of this pandemic.

This is true even though we know there is an important reason – keeping people safe from coronavirus. This is especially difficult for people in care homes, and their friends and families.

It’s natural to be concerned for the person you care about. They may not understand why you haven’t visited. They may be feeling lonely or low. 

Talk to the care home manager with any questions or concerns. The home will be working hard to keep the home safe from coronavirus while supporting residents who have not had visits or who have been isolated.

The home should help you keep in touch with the person you care about in a way that works for both of you, while keeping everyone safe. 

When are care home visits allowed?

Coronavirus poses a major threat to vulnerable care home residents as well as a risk to visitors and staff. Care homes still need to be very cautious about letting relatives or friends visit.

National guidance on visiting in England has been published and homes are  slowly re-opening to visitors.

Local public health staff will decide whether homes in their area can consider visits, based on the coronavirus situation in the community or any local outbreaks.

The care home manager will then decide whether their home can reopen, and if so to whom. They will look at:

  • the local situation – including any local restrictions
  • the status of the home (any recent outbreaks, virus test results)
  • support for staff
  • measures in place to reduce risks 
  • the benefits of visits to residents. 

In deciding on a particular visit, the home should also look in a person-centred way at the circumstances of each resident individually, including their vulnerability to COVID-19 and their wellbeing. Ask your home about its visiting policy and how it supports the wellbeing of people with dementia.

If any residents or staff have had coronavirus, visiting will stop until at least 28 days after the last case was found. An exception will generally be made for close relatives or friends visiting someone who is nearing the end of their life.

You also won’t be allowed to visit at all if you have any symptoms of coronavirus on the day or if you're self-isolating under the track and trace scheme.

How can I keep in touch if I can’t visit the care home?

The care home should keep you updated regularly on the person you care about, and whether anyone living or working in the home has coronavirus. They can’t speak to you about named people other than your own family member. The home should explain what measures they have in place to keep everyone safe. 

Some homes have websites or social media groups to support relatives. Make sure the home has your up-to-date contact details and knows the best way to get hold of you.

You may have already been using technology to keep in touch with the person from a distance. The care home should support them as needed to take a call with video technology (such as Skype or Zoom) or phone.

These approaches don’t work for everyone. If you’ve not been able to use these technologies, think about other ways you can keep in touch. You could write letters or post family photos, which staff can then share and talk about with the person. This ongoing connection will help the person feel loved – and may help keep you in their thoughts. This could improve their emotional wellbeing and reduce feelings of sadness or loneliness.

If you send in gifts, choose items that the home can wipe clean easily – a box of chocolate not flowers, for example. If the person is likely to become agitated, ask if you can send them items that can help provide reassurance or comfort, such as Fidget Widgets©. You can find these in our online Shop or at Active minds.

Last updated 03/08/2020

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