Nursing Home Resident During Covid

Do you have an incarcerated nursing home resident in your family? Okay, incarcerated isn’t the right word for nursing home patients during the pandemic, but it’s what it feels like. I know from experience.


My 98-year-old dad died in the nursing home in 2020. Not of COVID, but because of COVID we only got to be with him for the last 45 minutes of his life when his time came.

JT Willard nursing home resident during covid
My Dad

This post is not about disparaging healthcare workers or facilities, I want to be very clear about that. My dad received excellent care from the staff and they were only following rules handed down to them.

We appreciate every staff member that tended to him along with the administrative staff. We couldn’t have been more pleased with his care at the facility.

My goal here is to share some thoughts and maybe some tips on how to manage a difficult situation like this with your own family member or friend who may be residing in a facility that is not allowing visitation.

Or maybe you haven’t had anyone in a facility and don’t know what it’s like for residents or family members experiencing this devasting situation. This may help you understand their frustrations and heartbreak.

In our home town, a few facilities are beginning to make special allowances for limited family visits and this is wonderful. Hopefully, it will continue to get better and better.

So many residents have cognitive disabilities that can range from mild to very severe. Even patients with completely clear minds would have difficulty being kept away from their loved ones.

In my dad’s case, he had moderate dementia which was worse at times. He had no short-term memory. He couldn’t remember if he had seen us the day before, or the year before. Everything was in the moment for him unless he was talking about eighty years ago. All those memories were still clear as a bell)))

During the time he was in the nursing home, we tried to visit daily and there were very few weeks that went by that one of us wasn’t there every day. Visiting during his lunchtime seemed the best time of the day to visit for me anyway. I felt like it helped to keep him grounded in the present as much as possible.

You can only imagine how he must have felt when these visits and others stopped. Once visits were cut off, we were only allowed to go to the outside window of his room to visit, or come to the front door of the lobby and view him through the glass door.

He would motion for us to come in. We couldn’t. Imagine how that must have made him feel, that we didn’t care enough to come in for a minute. He must have thought….too busy.

I’m sharing this video with you, not to gain your empathy or sympathy, but only to show you what it is like for the thousands of people on both sides of the glass during this pandemic.

I also have an older sister in a facility. She is hearing impaired and in addition to wearing a hearing device, she relies on lip-reading. Imagine her difficulty with residents and staff all wearing masks. Here are some things to keep in mind if you have family in a facility:

Suggestions from Experience

  • Visit the nursing home resident any way you can, whether it be through glass or by phone call. Some facilities are helping with video chats and these are a Godsend for my sister. She has an iPad and calls me every day to video chat.
  • Send cards and letters.
  • Send packages. Keep gifts to edibles or personal care items. Socks, hand cream, lotions, chapstick. Send snacks that are prepackaged in small amounts. Simple games and magazines are good.
  • Engage the staff when you call. Inquire about your loved one. Are they eating? Have they lost weight? How is their skin integrity? Are they sleeping? Keep in mind that the person you happen to get when you’re trying to have a visit, may not know all the answers, but keep asking.
  • Remember that the staff is under stress also. It’s not their fault that you can’t visit and they don’t deserve the brunt of your frustration. They are doing the best they can under difficult circumstances. Try to remember that it’s for your loved one’s safety. Drop off snacks or anything for the staff to let them know you appreciate the care they are giving your loved one in your absence.
  • If they can manage a smartphone, iPad, or computer, send images, video, or voice messages. Send a video of your family just having dinner or just being together. You don’t have to be engaged, just let the usual background sounds of the family at the table be the focal point. Turn off the TV or music in the background so the resident can hear the voices of the adults and children. Don’t forget to video pets! Residents love to see animals at play.
  • If you do get to have a personal visit, don’t cheat. Don’t go if you’re sick or have a fever. Wear the protective equipment and don’t remove it when the nurse is out of sight.

Please stay safe and pray that this pandemic will be behind us soon.

More Reading


Time for a New Weekly Planner!

Goals & Resolutions

Valentine’s Day = Organ Donor Day

Fall Prevention in The Elderly – High Risk for Falls?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *