With many families having concerns about a loved one moving into a care home with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Beth Britton offers some advice.

Care homes have been in the news extensively in recent months as the coronavirus pandemic has gripped the UK.

Despite the many frightening stories, lots of people are still living positive and healthy lives in care homes. With this in mind, Care Choices have asked me for some tips for families whose loved ones may be joining the care home resident population in the coming weeks.

As someone whose father lived with vascular dementia for nineteen years and spent the last nine of those in three different care homes, I hope this Q&A will help you by answering a few of the most common questions I’ve been asked recently.

How can I reassure my loved one about moving into a care home?

There is no denying that moving into a care home is a big step for anyone, and the way in which care homes have been affected by coronavirus is understandably making families nervous about accessing their services.

However, most care homes have implemented strict procedures to try and keep their residents and staff safe and well. Additionally, they should now have access to many of the support mechanisms that were originally only available to the NHS, this includes:

  • provisions of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • and testing for residents and staff.

Do make sure you ask the care home your loved one is due to move into about their procedures so that you can both feel more reassured.

Support your loved one by talking about how they are feeling (even if you can only do this in a socially distanced way or via video or phone calls), and working together on plans for what they will take with them.

If the care home has a virtual tour facility watch this (with your loved one if possible) before the move. If that isn’t available ask if the care home would facilitate a video call so that you (and your loved one if possible) can ‘meet’ some of the staff and see the facilities.

What should I plan in advance of the move?

Together with your loved one (or via video or phone calls if you aren’t able to be together) choose what possessions they may want to take with them. Don’t just focus on clothing and personal items. For instance, think about ways you can enhance your loved one’s bedroom environment through items that represent their life story. This will help staff to get to know your loved one quicker.

For inspiration, you may want to read this case study from one of my consultancy clients, MacIntyre.

Remember to check with the care home about the types of items you can bring in. Label everything with your loved one’s name so that it doesn’t get lost. Try to avoid taking precious originals of any photos/certificates etc – think about having photocopies made instead.

Will I be able to see my loved one once they are in a care home?

Many care homes are now beginning to allow visiting by observing social distancing guidelines, this includes:

  • making use of outside spaces as much as possible
  • erecting screens
  • implementing other forms of protection if visits are happening indoors

Whilst the coronavirus pandemic is active these measures are essential to keep everyone safe, and you may be asked to wear a mask alongside practising good hand hygiene measures.

You’ll also be asked to ensure you never visit if you are unwell yourself or if anyone in your household is.

Aside from visiting in person, make use of technology like video calls to regularly ‘see’ and speak to your loved one (you may need to provide a device for this if the care home can’t guarantee access to one). And, of course, once the pandemic is under-control and less dangerous, restrictions will hopefully continue to be eased.

How involved can I be in my loved one’s care?

You can be as involved as the coronavirus restrictions allow. The minimum need most care homes have will be for an emergency contact and some family input into creating an initial care plan, with care reviews periodically thereafter.

Try to be creative to maintain contact with and support for your loved one, aside from video or phone calls, you could:

If the care home runs any events on platforms like Zoom for families to connect with their loved ones during activities, try to join in with these as well.

If you find you are struggling to communicate with your loved one, perhaps because they have dementia and it is advancing, it’s worth speaking to staff to ask for advice to help you communicate more effectively with your loved one. Good care home staff should be well-trained and able to guide you.

Still, deciding which care home to go with?  Our article, Choosing a Care Home can help you identify the right option for your loved one.