Thrive In Place Blog

Easy Ways to Engage Your Residents During COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 on senior living communities has been tremendous, especially when it comes to keeping residents engaged and connected.

Keeping residents connected and engaged with family members plays an imperative role when it comes to the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health of your residents.  Doing so ideally without staff intervention, is that much more empowering for all involved.  Here are easy ways to stay engaged with your residents and help them connect to what matters:

Video Chat With Family and Friends

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than being separated from friends and family. Since many millions of Americans over 65 already struggle with depression, developing a way for your residents to video chat with loved ones is crucial. Being able to see the faces of those they care about most can also help lower stress, anxiety and loneliness.

Fortunately, chatting virtually is easier now than ever. Consumer software solutions, like Facetime and Zoom, allow residents to video chat with their loved ones and can be accessed on mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets. These can be challenging as they require staff time and coordination, and possible wipe downs after usage, and offer small to very small screens, potentially challenging the resident. There are also community engagement platforms that allow residents to interact with each other and their staff while in common areas.  These also require extensive coordination with family members as well as residents.

Another option is in-residence technologies that residents can access through their televisions with zero staff intervention required. These are not free like other systems, but also allow for other services to be delivered into the room, such as broadcast messages, delivery of activities and exercises on the TV, faith services, menus, community calendars, etc. With so many advances in technology, there is an opportunity to pick the option that will best serve residents and staff alike.

Create Surprise Gift Boxes

To keep your residents looking forward to something, create surprise gift boxes out of shoe boxes or paper bags. Each resident can decorate theirs to their liking and place the box or bag outside of their room. Staff, care providers, and family members can brainstorm what they would like to surprise the resident with each day and the staff can ensure the surprise is in place the night before. Some ideas include books, favorite snacks, activity books, poems, uplifting quotes, crossword puzzles and letters.

Set up a Call Panel

If your facility has the capability to set up a call panel this is a great option to connect residents with each other and staff. This is a chance to connect weekly so that staff can update residents with news and announcements while allowing residents to feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves.

Encourage Fresh Air When Possible and Safe

Social distancing poses serious threats for the elderly and can lead to higher blood pressure, higher risk in heart disease and obesity, depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s important to encourage residents to get fresh air when possible, and of course, only when safe. The benefits are boundless, but include a greater sense of vitality, sensory stimulation to decrease boredom, increased physical activity, increase in immunity, and enhanced feelings of overall well-being.

Get Creative With Contests

Everyone loves some healthy competition through some engaging contests! Contests are a fun way to keep your residents connected to something light-hearted and stimulating. Whether it’s a coloring competition or coming up with their best quarantine outfit, there are endless options.

Regardless of how you decide to keep your residents engaged and connected, Independa is here to offer a helping hand in any way possible. These times are unprecedented and trying, but together we will rise above and move forward.

For more insights, check out the webinar we did with Senior Living Foresight where we talked about using technology to engage residents, family members and teams during COVID-19.

Stay safe, stay strong and stay connected!


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  • Our guests use the video chat and photo and message sharing features of Independa to stay connected with their families. In fact this week we admitted a guest who has a daughter in Georgia and another in Italy. I spoke with the daughter about how to share photos and messages and to make video calls from her Independa device, and later went to see the guest about how it was going. She said to me “Kelly this video chat is so cool! I don’t care how long I have to be in here now because I can see my daughters!” It’s just amazing to see one of our guests be able to connect with a loved one all the way from Italy!

    Kelly Miles, Director of Rec Therapy
  • You don’t need to keep calling me now to remind me, my TV just told me to take my medication!

    93 Year Old Independa User
  • I love that Dad can get digital photos now. He didn’t want a Facebook account so the only time he would see any photos was when we came over to visit and we’d show him on our iPhone. Now he gets them himself on the TV all the time, and when people come to visit him he proudly shows them his photo album on the TV.

    USA Properties
  • I’ve been using video chat and it has opened up my world – my family who live close by still visit once a week, but now I get to see them every day. I also get to see the rest of the family who live interstate and can’t come to visit. I also video chat with old friends who I haven’t seen for years. It has made such a big difference to my life, I don’t feel isolated anymore. I highly recommend this to other people; it really does change your life.

    USA Properties
  • I live in California, my 80 year-old dad lives in Texas and my 21 year-old daughter lives in Colorado. My daughter spends all her time on social media using her smart phone, whereas my dad spends all his time watching TV, he doesn’t understand social media and doesn’t have a smart phone. Independa is great because not only does it bring us closer despite the geographical distance between us, it bridges the gap between the generations because it uses the technology they are most comfortable with.

    USA Properties
  • We use the video chat feature in the resident’s TV to get the entire circle of care together at once; we will have the nurse and the physical therapist in the room with the resident, and we will then video call their family. That way everyone who is involved in their care gets the same message at the same time and can ask questions while we are present so there is no confusion. One time when we were working with a deaf resident, we were able to arrange for her daughter to sign via video chat and translate what we were saying and the questions her mother had; it made such a huge difference.

    Wellbridge at Brighton
  • My dad was on the Honor Flight to DC today. An amazing trip for a veteran. I was able to meet him at the Korean War Memorial. He is a Korean War veteran. I was able to send pictures of the entire experience to my mom at home throughout the day. Mom was thrilled, and when my dad gets home he has all the pictures from his trip on his TV and can even play a slideshow. Amazing!!! Thank you!

    Kendal At Home
  • Video chat on the TV is great! I was using FaceTime on my iPad to see the grandkids and I thought that was the greatest thing, but seeing them all on the big TV is truly incredible, it’s like they are in the room with me. I love it!

    USA Properties
  • When Lillian broke her hip a week before her Grandson’s wedding, she and the family were broken hearted because they thought she would have to miss this very special day. Thankfully, she had chosen Wellbridge of Brighton for her short-term rehab. “I’m going to my Grandson’s wedding” she proudly told the staff as she received the video call through her TV and was instantly ‘seated’ in the front row for the ceremony!

    Wellbridge of Brighton
  • I travel a lot for work. I used to worry myself sick about not being able to be there if Mom needed me. She says the smartphone I got her is too small, too complicated, and hard to see, but she loves using Independa. Now she can see all her shows and we can video chat so I can make sure she’s taking her medicine. It’s such a relief to check in anytime and know she’s OK.

    Laura P.