August 13, 2020
COVID-19 has created an incredible challenge for senior living communities. Every single daily routine has had to be redesigned with sanitation and physical distancing in mind, and the added mental health burden of precautionary isolation has been significant—especially for memory care residents.
For residents with forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease, staff have struggled to explain the difficult and novel situation the entire word has is facing. Residents who don’t understand why their loved ones aren’t visiting can feel abandoned and unloved, and having to constantly console and remind residents takes its toll on staff.
In these situations, engagement technology can act as a Swiss Army knife of sorts—putting an array of helpful tools within easy reach for staff members. Engagement technology that caters to a wide range of abilities and limitless interests helps staff meet residents’ needs in the moment. For staff, this alleviates stress, empowers action, and prevents burnout. For the resident, it helps keep them calm, engaged, and happy.
Here are four ways communities can incorporate engagement technology for residents at all levels of memory care:
When an in-person visit simply isn’t possible, video visits are the next best thing. Whether it’s on a large screen or a hand-held personal tablet, engagement technology is a great way to facilitate video visits. Look for a solution that makes this as easy as possible—stressed-out staff won’t appreciate a steep learning curve. An application that allows you to call someone with just a few taps is ideal. As a supplement to on-demand video visits, consider having family members pre-record comforting videos for their loved ones that any staff member can play whenever a resident is feeling lonely or distressed.
Engagement technology can be a great tool to redirect residents’ unmet needs and can also have the positive side effect of reducing the need for PRN medication. With a wide range of content available at staff’s fingertips, it’s easy to pull up a family photo or video, a beloved TV show, a favorite game, or familiar music to help redirect a resident. The best engagement technology solutions enable the creation of unlimited personal profiles on the platform, where staff can easily access any resident’s preferred content when it’s needed.
Reminiscing is an important activity for memory care. Another benefit of personalized resident profiles is the ability to house personal content, like video messages from family, digital photos, scanned letters, and more—whatever will help connect the resident to their memories. Staff can also encourage family members to regularly send new photos, videos, and messages, whether for daily check-ins or to mark important moments such as holidays, weddings, and graduations. These new moments can be interesting conversation starters that naturally lead to meaningful reminiscing. With all of this content organized by resident and easily available, staff have a powerful tool to keep residents engaged and happy, especially during the emotional stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Everyone has different interests, so it’s no surprise that communities need to have a wide range of content available for each resident’s unique needs. Finding content that’s appropriate for all levels of memory care can be even more challenging. The best solutions will provide a library of content that’s diverse in topic and appropriate to a spectrum of senior living ages and abilities.
With the first wave of the pandemic not even over yet, communities caring for residents with memory needs will continue to be challenged. However, technology solutions that can deliver on the four areas above will have strategic value during the pandemic, and beyond.