Visiting Loved Ones In A Care Home After Lockdown

From the 8th March 2021, care homes are able to open their doors once again to visitors of residents. The UK governments rules will be as follows:

  • ‘every care home resident will be able to nominate a single named visitor who will be able to enter the care home for regular visits. These visitors should be tested using rapid lateral flow tests before every visit, must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow all other infection control measures (which the care home will guide them on) during visits. Visitors and residents are advised to keep physical contact to a minimum. Visitors and residents may wish to hold hands, but should bear in mind that any contact increases the risk of transmission. There should not be close physical contact such as hugging’
  • ‘residents with the highest care needs will also be able to nominate an essential care giver’
  • ‘care homes can continue to offer visits to other friends or family members with arrangements such as outdoor visiting, substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows’

(extracted from: Department of Health and Social Care: Guidance on Care Home Visiting, 9th March 2021)

The long overdue opportunity of being able to see our loved ones face to face will come as a welcome relief to many families however, after so many months of socially distanced contact, there may be some anxiety on both sides. Our guide can offer ideas to help to make that first long-awaited visit relaxed and enjoyable.

He/she doesn’t recognise me - what can I do?

Wearing a mask can prevent facial recognition so take along recent photographs of you with your loved one to reminisce over, this will help add context of the outside world again. Film a video of other family members saying hello – or even have an online meeting with you all while you are visiting. Hearing familiar voices can help to jog memories. Sometimes it can take time for the ‘penny to drop’ about who you are so allow for this.

My loved one seems nervous around me – how can I help relax things?

Try not to rush in and overwhelm them – remember a change of routine can be scary. Go in gently and maybe take their hand once you feel it would be welcome. A good ice-breaker could be to maybe take a local newspaper and talk about changes that have taken place since lockdown (shops opening/closed and local events that are being planned. If there are grandchildren/great-grandchildren, ask them to make a card with some short messages and pictures inside – a great way to get the conversation going about the wider family.

What if their condition has deteriorated – how can I prepare myself?

Many of us have experienced feelings of depression during lockdown and this can lead to loss of appetite, lack of interest in one’s appearance and can accelerate any underlying health issues. Try to get an update on your loved one’s condition before visiting if you can. Be guided by the staff who work closely with the person. When you visit, try not to comment on their deterioration, but ask them how they are and what they hope to happen now we are slowly coming out of lockdown. Hand massage can be soothing and comforting, especially if someone is confined to bed. Play some gentle music if there are facilities – don’t feel you have to fill the time with conversation.

What can I take as a suitable gift?

A small photograph album can often be a very welcoming gift and can be enjoyed after the visit too. Try to include as many recent images as you can, as well as some from before the lockdown to evoke memories.  A simple game or jigsaw puzzle can be fun to do together or that your loved one can play with another resident. A game like Match the Song Titles can be ideal for all abilities and there are many other titles to choose from in the range. This game also encourages reminiscence and can be played as a group or individually. A large print puzzle book can make a great gift – choose from Word Search, Crossword, Sudoku and Maze Puzzles, and can be kept by a chair or bedside and enjoyed at any time.

How can I encourage them to get outside in the garden?

Many older people may be reluctant to leave the safety of their familiar rooms after being denied the opportunity to sit in the air for so long. It may seem a bit scary to go into what will seem, unfamiliar territory. Ensure you choose a nice warm day and set aside a chair or space a way from too much noise if possible. Try to have a purpose to go out -maybe ask the care home staff if you can plant up a tub together or do some weeding outside? Or you could take a sketch book or water paint set like Aquapainting to sit and do together to make it a meaningful experience. Once you have achieved one trip outside, further trips will likely be less daunting to the person.

Above all, adhere to the care home rulings – you want the experience to be nothing but positive for everyone concerned. Staff too may be anxious about the changes and worried about possible increases in infection rates at the home and potentially to the wider public.

Where possible, try to visit on a regular day or time in order for the care home staff to prepare that your loved one is ready for you and not about to sit down to a meal. It also allows your relative to look forward to that particular special time with you.

For the latest government information on Guidance on Care Home Visiting, click on the link below: