Alzheimer's Society Innovation Hub

How do we keep connected to those in care homes in 'lock-down'?

Currently, there are many people out there with a loved one in a care home – what do they do when the care home is in 'lock-down'? What can they do if they can’t see their loved one? And what about if their dementia develops and they won’t recognise them a few months down the line? How can we best support people in this situation?

edited on Mar 24, 2020 by Natasha Howard
Natasha Howard

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Helen Hamblen 7 months ago

It's an impossible situation. We have set up a rota of family phone calls and printed posters to put on the wall saying who will call when. We have put up signs to say 'stay in your room'. I visit every other day and see my dad through the window. The home has an ipad for FaceTime but it is only twice a week as it needs to be shared by all residents. Any other ideas welcome.

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Colin Capper 7 months ago

Helen, if we got ten I-pads delivered to every care home in the country, would that help? I’m not sure we can, but I wanted to check whether the solution is that straightforward?

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Helen Hamblen 7 months ago

Hi Colin, this type of initiative would definitely help with the question of 'How do we keep connected to those in care homes in 'lock-down'?' but practical daily help of managing health and wellbeing needs for people with dementia will be difficult if staff numbers are reduced. The only way i can see to resolve this is volunteers going in to care homes and doing the social tasks such as tea-trolly, serving dinner, kitchen assistance, cleaning, wellbeing activities etc., freeing up trained care staff to focus on health needs.

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Suzanne Amos 6 months ago

Hi, it's a nice idea to supply iPads but I wonder about these issues - and I hope you don't think I'm being negative with the issues outlined below, but having gone through both of my parents with dementia, I've experienced various things:

-- staff resources: At my mum's care home in Kent, staff are really stretched, really busy due to their colleagues being off sick so i feel bad about asking them to go get mum for a phone call - because I may be taking them away from feeding or bathing another resident

- Tech skills and tech setup: In my mum's care home, staff do not seem tech savvy (and this is not a criticism, they are amazing carers - just not that tech savvy). staff say they do not know the wifi passcode. And the wifi may be flakey.

-- Dementia and ipad screens: depending on which type of dementia your loved one has, and depending what stage of dementia your loved one is at, they may not understand what the screen is or where the voice is coming from or who the voice is or who the face is.

-- social distancing: is it OK for care home staff to set up a Skype session - if it would mean the staff member having to sit or stand close to your relative?

-- on a Skype call or even a phone call, do you trust yourself to be upbeat enough in the current situation and able to communicate well enough to reassure your loved one?

-- depending on what stage of dementia, your loved one may be 'in broadcast mode' - where they just talk and you cannot ask them any questions

-- The care home's wonderful activity organiser asked me to record an audio message that she could play many times to my mum. That way i can script the message and keep an upbeat tone of voice to reassure, rather than going off script or not knowing how to reply to the question 'When will I next see you?'

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Cath Barton 7 months ago

Have seen examples of entertainers providing virtual entertainment via Skype, YouTube etc which can work well if homes have equipment eg smart TV or tablets and Wifi
Often homes don't let staff use their own phones but seen some examples of this being relaxed so can connect with family via FaceTime and What's App using staff phones.

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John Amos 6 months ago

I too am in the same situation where my wife has been in a nursing home for over 5 years and apart from holidays have been visiting every day. She is immobile and doesnt speak so many of the options cant be used. I am taking up with the care home about using a video link like Facetime or Whatsapp video. It is very difficult as I likely wont get a response but do feel that it would help for me to see her. As it seems very likely that the home will not be open to visitors for quite some time, it is a real concern not to go and see her or feed her etc, but realise there is no choice at present. Very difficult to deal with.

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Diane Bond 6 months ago

This is a huge problem and so very upsetting for the families of loved ones in care homes in lockdown. My Mum's care home is very good and the lovely staff are using their own phones to FaceTime me. That is a wonderful thing for me to be able to see my lovely Mum but due to her advanced dementia she doesn't really know that it's me she's seeing on the phone. So FaceTime is perhaps a great tool for me but it doesn't address the problem of my Mum having contact with me. I'm worried that as time goes on she will forget who I am. As the only relative she remembers I am an important figure for her and have been the person who calms her etc until now. I think the previous comment of providing i pads to care homes would be a positive thing. If they could cromecast the FaceTime call onto a larger screen, the resident would have more chance of seeing the caller rather than just a small phone screen.

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Pauline Ward 6 months ago

I have been phoning my great aunt in her residential home more often since I now cannot visit because of lockdown. The staff are very patient about fielding my call and fetching her. But I am worried about what will happen if they're all confined to their rooms or if she is unwell and stuck in her room. They stopped the phone in her room because she dialled 999 twice. But I wish she still had a phone she could receive calls on there. She used to open up more and stay on the phone longer when we did that, I think it was a bit better.

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