Area Agency on Aging: How to connect with elders during COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak has everyone on edge – and anxious about the health, safety and welfare of loved ones who are living in a senior community such as an assisted living or nursing facility.

The Area Agency on Aging 1-B, a nonprofit dedicated to serving older adults and family caregivers, has put together tips for staying in touch with loved ones despite restrictions on in-person visits:

  • Make frequent phone calls to get a sense of how they feel and what care they are receiving.
  • Ask the manager or supervisor of the facility about the protocols they’re using to keep everyone safe, how they are getting residents the things they need, and what their emergency plan is if residents become ill.
  • Use technology to connect if you have access and your loved one is comfortable using it (Skype, Facetime, etc.).
  • Visit through a window (if possible).
  • Talk to your loved one about social distancing and why it’s so important (this may be difficult for people with memory loss or dementia to understand).
  • Talk to your loved ones about ways they can change their inside routine to be safe, such as calling friends on the phone or texting rather than going down the hall to visit, and staying out of shared spaces when possible.
  • Listen for things that might be a concern. For example, they don’t feel well or one of their friends is ill, the facility they live in isn’t taking safety precautions, etc.
  • Send a letter or card to your loved one that they can look at and re-read. It’s comforting.
  • If your loved one is craving stimulation, Senior Centers Without Walls is a source of activities and classes, education, friendly conversation, support groups by phone or computer. The website is covia.org/services/well-connected/. The phone number is 877-797-7299 (keep in mind that the organization is in California, which is three hours behind and it may have disruptions because it is volunteer-run).
  • If your loved one is in a nursing home or other licensed facility and you have concerns that are unaddressed, you can call Michigan’s long-term care ombudsman at 866-485-9393.

The Area Agency on Aging 1-B serves more than 760,000 older adults and adults with disabilities with services ranging from in-home care to home-delivered meals in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties, enabling people to live safely and independently.