So many LTC homes face continual challenges that come with residents being made to isolate because of COVID-19. This was the topic of a recent question brought up by our Social Worker and Social Service Worker Community of Practice, a group supported by the Ontario CLRI at Bruyère and Family Councils Ontario. Our social work (SW) and social service work (SSW) colleagues shared what they have been doing to mitigate loneliness and isolation for residents during times when they are spending the majority of the day in their rooms. Below is a compiled list of strategies and resources to support the quality of life for residents during periods of outbreak and isolation they may have to go through. We hope hearing from other homes will spark ideas and solutions for your own home and/or community.
Three key themes emerged from the group around enhancing the quality of life of residents in isolation or in outbreak protocols:
- Technology: There’s a variety of ways to get technology into the hands of residents in your home and it will make all the difference to virtual engagement – especially if they come with Wi-Fi access. Residents have enjoyed using YouTube or iTunes to watch movies/videos or listen to music that can help boost the morale of residents. These devices can also help support virtual visits with family and friends. Look to the community for donations of old tablets and phones with Wi-Fi capabilities.
- Public library resources: Utilize your local library – Public libraries often have book sets (including audio books) for lending and a variety of online programs. Read books either in resident groups or via aloud over the PA system to reach residents in their rooms.
- 1:1 Check-Ins: Taking the time to check in with residents and their families, as team members are able, is crucial to residents; well-being during outbreaks/isolation. This is a role that SWs and SSWs in LTC are fulfilling regularly.
Hallway activities bring residents together at their doorways and can allow for appropriate spacing between residents, while still being able to follow COVID-19 protocols. Some examples for hallway activities SWs and SSWs shared are listed below:
- Art: Painting or drawing is a great way to help residents express their creativity.
- Bingo: Use printed Bingo pages; you can also use themed Bingo pages.
- Music program: Residents can use bells, shakers, or other instruments to create songs
and play along to music.
- Drum Fitness: Using exercise balls and drumsticks (or cut pool noodles as an adaptation)
is a great activity where everything can be sanitized.
- Spiritual programs: Prayer Groups, Hymn Sing (when singing is permitted), chair yoga, and mindfulness activities such as setting intentions, reading reflections, breathing exercises, and guided meditation.
- Collaborative story or poem: Using a whiteboard or iPad have the residents pick a theme and take turns adding sentences or lines to the story/poem.
- True or False: Using paddles, have one side representing “True” and the other representing “False.” As you ask your questions, residents raise their paddles with their answers for everyone to see.
- Crosswords/Trivia: Print copies of your clues/questions for residents to follow along. Giant crosswords can be mounted on boards to make them portable and easy to set up on a stand in the hallway.
- Leisure Time: Prepare a variety of activities for residents based on what they feel like doing in that moment.
- Strategies for Building and Maintaining Social Connection for Long-Term Care Home Residents – This report (done earlier on in COVID-19) provides strategies identified from published research and illustrated with stakeholder input that can help build and maintain social connections in LTC residents. (ENCOAR Research Team)
- Social Relationships are Important for the Mental Health of people living in long-term care homes – An Infographic (available in French and English) showing the connection between social connectedness and physical and mental health and well-being. (ENCOAR Research Team)
- A Guide to Virtual Creative Engagement for Older Adults – this guide can help LTC address the under-stimulation and loneliness felt by residents from restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The VCE Guide features a curated list of free virtual services appropriate for residents with various health conditions and ability levels. The guide is intended for recreation therapists, social workers, nurses and other team members in LTC. (Ontario CLRI at Baycrest)
- Boredom Busters – Developed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce boredom and loneliness for residents in LTC, this tool pulls together links to free resources and activities. The tool can be utilized by family care partners (and team members) who are spending time with residents and looking for creative ways to engage. Available in English and French. (Ontario CLRI at Bruyere and iGen Ottawa)
Thank you to the members of the SW and SSW in LTC Community of Practice for bringing up this important question, for the spirit of sharing ideas and willingness to have these ideas shared more broadly.