How to Support Residents in Lockdown

How to Support Residents in Lockdown

User Profile By Haley Burress   United States

Found In: Activities Articles Coronavirus: Covid-19

COVID-19 has drastically changed life inside of senior living communities throughout the globe. Here is how to maintain a sense of calm as well as how to connect with residents during this time.
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It’s a strange time in history right now thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For those of us who work with the elderly - the most vulnerable to serious complications from the virus - it can feel overwhelming, unsettling, and worrisome. 

However, our roles as Activity Professionals have never been more important. To encourage and inspire you, here are some ideas for your calendar, residents, and community. We will get through this as we always have - together.

Brief Rundown of COVID-19

You’re certainly inundated with news coverage and you’ve probably been a part of your community’s infection control meetings about COVID-19. However, it is important that you have the reliable information you need in order to understand how to do your job best. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about COVID-19:

  • Seniors and those with underlying health conditions are especially vulnerable to serious complications (like pneumonia) than younger counterparts.
  • Most senior living communities are using aggressive visitor restrictions to keep residents and staff members safe.
  • Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath.
  • Infection control protocols, like washing your hands and using personal protective equipment, will help to keep you and your residents safe.

It can feel scary and you can feel overwhelmed with information that literally changes by the day (sometimes by the hour). It’s okay to feel like this. You should also remember your residents are likely feeling the same way.

How COVID-19 Affects Activity Departments

Depending on where you are in the world, your community may have:

  • Stopped any outside visitors except for staff and emergency personnel
  • Stopped group activities altogether or for groups larger than 10
  • Modified dining room procedures or meal times

Visitor and group activity restrictions can significantly reduce your ability to schedule entertainment, utilize volunteers, and meet the needs of your residents. However, your role during this time is clear: to assure residents are calm and engaged. Here’s how to make it happen with the very limited resources you may have right now.

Use Technology

Now is the time to use technology more than ever. (It’s also the time to get your Administrator to sign off on purchasing technology for your department) Here are a few ideas for how to use technology to reach residents in their rooms and in small groups:

  • Have a favorite entertainer perform for residents using Skype or Facebook Live
  • Download meditation apps like HeadSpace onto devices for residents to use in their rooms
  • Schedule FaceTime or FB Messenger video calls with family members so they can speak with their loved ones and others
  • Host a daily poem read aloud via video chat and encourage residents to log-in from their devices
  • Email residents daily trivia or conversation starters
  • Use virtual travel opportunities like this one
  • Ask family members to make hello videos that you can show to all residents

While some of these interventions will obviously work best with higher functioning residents, it is still a great start.

Use Drop-In Visits

Drop-in visits are crucial right now as most of your residents are likely in their rooms the majority of the day. Different than 1:1 visits, these drop-ins are a time to visually check on each resident and see what they need. Try dropping in on your residents twice per day, and try to multi-task by also pushing a themed cart so that you can drop off independent leisure materials. Cart themes can include:

  • Trivia and Reminiscing: trivia books or printed quizzes, conversation starters, reminiscing magazines, etc.
  • Hydration: work with dining to create a drink of the day
  • Spiritual: devotional materials, spiritual magazines, mandala coloring pages, journal pages, rosary beads, etc.
  • Games: handheld games, board games, decks of cards, etc.

Your drop-in visit will allow a time-effective way to get face time with each resident so that you can check on their needs and their mood. Then, you can follow up appropriately.

Use Volunteers

While your volunteers cannot come into your community right now, you can still use them to serve residents. Here are a few tasks they could help you with:

  • Call specific residents to check-in, visit, and develop a relationship with
  • Hang bird feeders outside each resident window (on the ground floor)
  • Make encouraging signs or drawings to pass out to residents
  • Send letters addressed to specific residents. Make “mail call” a fun activity so that everyone receives mail
  • “Window visit”: volunteers can stop by and wave hello, hold encouraging signs, sing, etc. at the window of resident rooms or your activity room.
  • Plant flowers outside to make the view more beautiful
  • Sidewalk chalk murals or encouraging messages so residents can see them from the window

Educate Caregivers

Your CNA staff is stressed out right now too, but you need them now more than ever. Be sure you are taking time to educate them on activities they can participate in with residents during personal care. Try having an “Activity of the Day” that caregivers can do with residents; educate them on the activity during shift change and via signs in the workroom or nursing station. Keep it easy. Here are some ideas:

  • Sing-A-Long: list a few songs caregivers and residents will know
  • Trivia: List two trivia questions they can ask each resident during their time together
  • Reminiscing: List two conversations starters they can use with residents
  • Joke of the Day: A silly (and appropriate) joke to tell with residents
  • Read Together: A poem or short passage they can read with residents (print a bunch of copies so each caregiver can tuck the passage into their pocket)
  • Secret Handshake: Have caregivers create a secret handshake (not a handshake though, try an elbow bump or dance move) with each of their residents

Word searches and crosswords are a good start for residents but are simply not sustainable for too long. We are all still learning and creating new programs to use in our new reality. Let’s share in the comments what is working - and what isn’t - in your community so we can learn together. 

I’m cheering you on and I’m confident you are doing your very best for those you serve. You’ve got this.

Related: 50 Activities for the Elderl in Lockdown & Isolation

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Comments   Post a Comment

Sultana Latiff 27th Aug 2021
the information is very useful
Nancy 17th Aug 2021 Activity Program Supervisor
I love all the ideas. We are currently restricting visitors in our community. It can be a challenge but thanks to all your ideas and support I’m blessed.
Talita 22nd Aug 2021
Thank you so much for your feedback Nancy. These are challenging times, we are so happy we can help you.
Tammy 14th Jul 2020 Activity Director
When residents are on lockdown how are all of you helping your residents cope with not being able to go out shopping?
Susan 15th Jul 2020 Activity Director
Hi Tammy
You can let them look for things online
Then you can order the things for them or they can get them at a later time
Jenny 13th Apr 2020 Activities Coordinator
During these difficult and challenging times, your site has been a complete god send.
I'm an Acrivities Coordinator (now called Wellbeing & Inclusion Assistant) for Retirement Living here in the UK.
Through your site I generate, what I call, a weekly "Lockdown Quiz Booklet" which includes some of your Quizes and other puzzles which also include a Prize Puzzle.
Thas been greatly received by out tenants and staff.
So thank you from me and all please Stay Safe.
Susan 14th Apr 2020 Activity Director
Hi Jenny
A lockdown quiz booklet sounds like a great idea
Thank you
Talita 20th Apr 2020
Thank you so very much for your feedback Jenny. x
Kelly 16th Jun 2020
I make a challenge Pack for every Friday and a few residents will take the challenge. It contains Mazes, Crossword puzzles, Word Searches, Color Pages, Quick stories, and Riddles.
Those who like less of challenge I give easier packs or just color pages. Residents each have their own box of color pencils.
Cindy 31st Mar 2020
At our skilled nursing facility we did a “spa” day where we used the hairdresser room to wash , dry and curl residents hair who don’t utilize the hairdressing services. It really lifted their spirits!
Susan 23rd Mar 2020 Activity Director
Thank you for all your prayers
I also hope all will get well soon
Sharon 23rd Mar 2020 Movement And Music Therapist
Susan, I am located in Lubbock, Texas. Where you located? Is it against the rules to ask? I feel extremely isolated being in confinement with my husband. My email is [email protected] if it’s okay to share.
Praise eddy omofurieta 22nd Mar 2020
Dear lord,please have mercy and restore good health to people affected with coronavirus
Reina 21st Mar 2020 Lifestyle Carer
Great ideas and suggestions.
Susan 21st Mar 2020 Activity Director
Hi Sharon
You sound like a great person
Thank you for your great effort
Sharon 22nd Mar 2020 Movement And Music Therapist
Thank you ,Susan. You made my day!❤️
Caroline 20th Mar 2020
Great idea in these challenging times! I will be promoting within my organization, thanks
Sharon 20th Mar 2020 Movement And Music Therapist
Great activities and suggestions. My husband is in an Alzheimer’s facility. I do a music and mobility class once a week, hence my subscription to golden caregivers. I am quarantined in the facility with my husband. I am going to make cards for all the residents each day. I might even draw them pictures. I love this idea. Thank you.
Haley 19th Mar 2020 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Haley has submitted a new article: How To Support Residents In Lockdown
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