According to official estimates, there are more than 15,000 nursing homes with nearly 2 million licensed beds in the United States. As of last year, those facilities housed approximately 1.4 to 1.5 million people. Not surprisingly, most nursing home residents are Older Americans with chronic health concerns.

Now with the COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic putting those people at risk, nursing homes across the country have temporarily halted visitation. In many cases this means residents and their families have not seen each other in person for weeks. We know that you want to stay connected at all times to not only check in on your loved ones, but to protect them. Let us share a few things you can do if you and your loved ones are facing this situation.

1. Make the most of technology. Experts recommend that families make the most of technology, if possible. If a loved one in a nursing home has access to email, do not hesitate to communicate that way each day. If he or she cannot, request that the nursing home staff help facilitate regular communication on FaceTime or Skype. If all else fails, try to keep in touch by making regular phone calls.

2. Send care packages and photographs. You can also let a loved one in a nursing home know that you are thinking of them even if you cannot see them in person by exchanging pictures. There may be restrictions on how mail can be received so be sure to discuss this with the facility in advance of your mailing.

Further, according to published reports, some nursing homes have started photo-swapping programs. In this scenario, the nursing home sends photos of the resident to their loved ones. The facility then asks the family to send photos of themselves to their loved one in return. To make the activity more interesting, consider sending photographs of you and your family in silly hats or clothing associated with a specific theme.

You may also consider sending a care package to your loved one. This may include his or her favorite sweets, games or puzzles, books and so forth. As always, before you send anything, be sure to check with the facility about any restrictions on incoming mail.

3. Allay your fears by contacting the facility directly. Under the circumstances, it is completely understandable if you are anxious or concerned about a loved one in a nursing home. Being unable to see them in person may be making matters even worse. You may be able to assuage these feelings by keeping in touch with nursing home staff. Ask about the protocols being followed regarding separation of residents and other measures to limit exposure to contagions. Remind them to keep you apprised of any significant developments, including any confirmed cases of COVID-19. Be sure to check the facility website for any relevant news.

If you still have concerns about the care your loved one is receiving, or about your ability to see someone in a nursing home, feel free to contact us at any time to schedule a free case evaluation. We are your local community law firm ready and able to help. We are always available to evaluate your situation.