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The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the way we serve our residents, their family members, and our staff.
While Activity Professionals around the globe have gotten even more creative to meet socialization needs for residents, families have been feeling sad and even out of the loop with daily life for their loved ones.
Here are a few ways you can communicate better with loved ones who are missing their family members.
Why Communication Matters
The coronavirus pandemic is scary, especially because family members are hearing stories of outbreaks in senior living facilities and are wondering how they can keep their loved ones safe without visiting. Misinformation is everywhere, and family members can feel overwhelmed and confused every time they turn on the news.
Now, more than ever, communication from your senior living community is crucial for family members. Good and effective communication can:
- Provide relief to family members
- Grow their confidence in your community
- Reassure them their loved one is healthy and cared for
- Stop the spread of incorrect information or local rumors
- Bring a bright spot in their day when they see or hear from their loved one
- Improve family satisfaction and referrals
6 Barriers to Effective Communication
Everything is different right now, which means effective communication with family members can present its own set of challenges. If you are struggling with finding ways to communicate with family members, you're not alone. Common obstacles to effective communication right now can include:
- Limited or restricted visits, which means less face-to-face communication
- Electronic newsletters can sometimes end up in a Spam folder
- Family members are overwhelmed with communications from their employers, schools, grocery stores, etc.
- Information overload can lead to more stress
- Residents with cognitive loss are not good reporters and phone/video calls can be confusing or overstimulating
- Family members have a lot of questions and can be upset without an immediate response
14 Ways to Improve Communication During a Pandemic
Fortunately, you and your department can use your creativity to create meaningful ways to communicate with family members during the pandemic. Who knows, perhaps some of your new communication tactics will continue once life in your community returns to “normal” (hopefully sooner than later). Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Create a family group on your community’s social media feed where you can post fun photos of residents socializing and thriving in the midst of pandemic protocols
- Send out postcards to family members from your team or from residents that include community photos on the front. Make it a monthly tradition!
- Send out your community newsletter electronically, as well as posting the link to your community’s social media feed
- Assist residents with video calls as needed
- Do your best to respond to family member emails or phone calls as quickly as possible.
- Create a “frequently asked questions” page on your community website with answers to common COVID-19 communication questions; you can also answer a few common questions on your department’s voicemail
- Host conference calls for family members and residents that are social in nature, taking place of a more traditional Family Night; have a reminiscing phone call, trivia time call, or even a themed event
- Ask a local entertainer to host a performance via Facebook Live or Zoom so family members can virtually attend with their loved one
- Send photos of loved ones to family members via text or email a few times per month, with a quick note from you and the team
- Have residents write a quick “miss you” note on a dry erase board and take their photo with it. Then, send it to their family members
- Use 1:1 time to help residents write a note to their loved ones to stick in the mail
- Create videos to include in your electronic newsletter or social media feed talking about what your department is doing each week to keep residents feeling connected and happy; when you tell loved ones what you are specifically doing to address a concern, you are growing their confidence
- Get other departments involved with your communication strategy with family members so that everyone is on the same page
- Use Zoom and conference calling technology to keep up with Care Plan family meetings
How are you keeping family members informed during this strange time? I’m already so impressed with Activity Professionals around the world who are finding creative ways to connect with family members. This coronavirus pandemic has been difficult, certainly, but I’ve never been more proud to be a part of the Activity profession.
I’m cheering you all on everyday!