With the intense social distancing measures that have been enforced under the COVID-19 pandemic, unintended challenges are placed on older adults in independent/assisted living and long term care. Not only is this population at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 but they are more likely to experience damaging physical, social and cognitive effects of isolation during this time. Social isolation in residents who are already at risk may cause major issues such as depression, dehydration, falls, muscle weakness, cognitive loss, incontinence, pressure ulcers, decreased oral hygiene, disorientation, urinary tract infection, joint contractures, self-care issues, mobility issues, decreased toileting hygiene, pain and reduced physical endurance.
As clinicians continue to treat this population there are many protocols that can be implemented to counteract the negative effects of isolation on these vulnerable residents:
Regular Physical Activity
Because this illness is highly debilitating, a regular exercise program is very important. Direct care and Activities Departments should encourage regular physical activity and the following evidence-based exercises are some of many that are available online for free. Each of these tutorials guide older adults in activities while sheltering in place and includes a warm-up and all four types of exercise activity including endurance, muscle strengthening, flexibility and balance.
Individuals should consult with a doctor before starting an exercise program and providers can contact Concept Rehab to learn more about programs that are designed to allow patients to exercise in their room with remote instruction and minimal equipment.
Offer Connection & Engagement
Support their well being by connecting with and trying to keep the patient’s spirits up. With the limited interaction they have, all opportunities to offer engagement and connection are important.
Facilitate regular communication with loved ones via phone or video calls. Schedule these communications weekly and establish a routine. To make the most of the virtual calls, be sure to train or help residents set up the call so that technical difficulties aren’t a barrier to connecting to the call.
The diet for COVID-19 positive patients is very important. Be sure to offer a high calorie diet that boosts immunity to help them recover.
Offer mindfulness exercises including slow breathing, relaxation, and meditation. It’s important to understand that the current situation is temporary and encourage individuals to focus on the present moment.
Through collaboration and communication with facility team members, Concept Rehab clinicians are focused on identifying and treating isolated residents to assure their safety and health needs are met. Our teams understand the complexities of functional performance changes of those most at risk and prioritize goals based on deficits and medical conditions. Our focus is to use clinical protocols and safety measures to return each resident to their prior level of function and enhance quality of life, together as a unified interdisciplinary team.
If you have questions or would like to learn more about how Concept Rehab cares for the unique needs of long term care residents during COVID-19, please reach out to a post-acute care specialist.