Earlier this month, Ohio governor Mike DeWine announced that some of the shelter-in-place restrictions have been updated in certain sectors. Among those updates was an allowance for assisted living facilities and intermediate care facilities to make arrangements for outdoor visitation. This restriction has been especially difficult for residents and families of these facilities. Those people with home care have had much more flexibility to see their loved ones throughout the early part of this pandemic.
We are thrilled that families can begin to do more visitation with loved ones, but it’s still important to carefully structure social interactions with seniors so they remain safe. Should you take your loved one out to eat, for example? Should you plan a large family gathering? When and how can you begin socializing with elderly family members?
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.
What Are the Current Recommendations for Ohio?
Ohio is currently in Phase 3 of reopening. This means that restaurants and shops are opening up as well as places like casinos and amusement parks. Reopening plans must include preparation for social distancing, sanitation, and other protocols to promote health and safety.
As part of this phase, families of seniors understandably have questions about how they can socialize safely and what steps they should take to protect loved ones from illness. Here are some important things to consider:
- It is not recommended that high risk individuals be taken out. Even though restaurants and businesses are beginning to open up, seniors should plan to stay home for a while longer.
- While assisted living facilities can now offer outdoor visitation, nursing homes still remain closed. That raises questions for seniors living at home. Should family members visit or wait? The key is to remember that seniors are at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19 and to plan your visit accordingly. Anyone visiting with a senior loved one should take precautions.
- When visiting with family at home, follow health and safety guidelines. These guidelines include practicing social distancing, washing hands frequently, not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, and disinfecting surfaces regularly.
As you think about visiting with your senior family member, plan ahead to make your visit as safe and low-risk as possible. At Cherished Companions, we have continued to provide care for seniors at home throughout the coronavirus outbreak following careful safety protocols. We encourage all family members to take these same safety measures when you visit with your loved one:
- Take your temperature ahead of time. If it is above 100.4º, save your visit for another day.
- If you exhibit any symptoms related to the coronavirus or have been exposed to someone with the virus, postpone your visit.
- Wash your hands frequently before, during, and after your visit.
- Dry your hands thoroughly with a clean towel.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Follow social distancing guidelines.
- Disinfect surfaces regularly.
- Wear a face mask, if possible.
How to Plan a Safe, Enjoyable Visit During COVID-19
While it’s important to follow health and safety guidelines during your visit, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it fun! In light of social distancing guidelines, you may need to get creative in planning activities that don’t include physical contact. Here are a few ideas:
- Plan outdoor activities as much as possible. Sit outside on the porch, take a socially-distanced walk together, or plan a picnic or barbecue. If your loved one has an outdoor hobby such as gardening or bird-watching, do that activity together. Bring some flowers to plant or take pictures of birds at the feeder.
- Do a craft together. If your loved one enjoys crafting, bring over some new projects to work on. Be sure to plan separate projects for each person and use separate tools to reduce the risk of sharing germs.
- Plan a family reunion over Zoom. While you will want to keep the number of visitors to a minimum, you can still have a fun time with your extended family over Zoom or FaceTime. Help your loved one set up a video call with siblings, children, or grandchildren.
- Order takeout from your loved one’s favorite restaurant. It’s still not wise to take seniors out to a restaurant, but you can bring the restaurant to them! Order their favorite meal or dessert to enjoy together.
- Read a book. If your family member enjoys reading, choose a book you can read to them. Plan a weekly (or more frequent) visit to find out what happens next!
Experts still say that until we have a vaccine for COVID-19, the best way to keep seniors safe is to keep interactions at a distance. During any visit, be sure to wear a mask (especially indoors), remain six feet apart, and avoid physical contact such as hugging or shaking hands. While these habits are extremely difficult to practice when you have been longing to see your loved ones, following them is still the best way to reduce the risk of sharing the virus.
If you have questions about how to keep your family member safe, what Cherished Companions is doing to protect seniors, or how you can become a caregiver, please contact us for more information!