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Family Communication in Long-Term Care During a Pandemic: Lessons for Enhancing Emotional Experiences

Published:September 12, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jagp.2020.09.008

      Highlights

      • The primary purpose of the study was to investigate which methods of communication during the COVID-19 pandemic were associated with more positive and less negative emotional experiences and perceptions of resident experiences of family members and friends of older adults in long-term care facilities in the United States.
      • Using the phone more frequently was associated with less negative emotional experiences for participants, and using email more frequently was associated with more positive perceived resident experiences. Having letters delivered more frequently was associated with more participant and perceived resident negative emotions.
      • Connecting with family members and friends in long-term care facilities, especially via phone, may contribute to better emotional experiences for family members, friends, and long-term care residents.

      ABSTRACT

      Objective

      Family visits with residents at long-term care (LTC) facilities have been restricted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The objective was to examine what communication methods, other than in-person visits, during the pandemic were associated with greater positive and lower negative emotional experiences for LTC residents and their family members and friends.

      Design

      Cross-sectional.

      Setting

      Nationally targeted online survey.

      Participants

      One hundred sixty-one community-dwelling adults who had a family member or friend in a LTC facility.

      Measurements

      The Positive and Negative Affect Scale was used to assess participant's own emotions and perceived resident emotions during the pandemic. Questions were asked about nine communication methods other than physical visits (e.g., phone, video-conference, e-mail, and letters) in terms of frequency of use during the pandemic. Sociodemographics, resident health, and facility factors were assessed and used as covariates where indicated.

      Results

      During the pandemic, greater phone frequency was associated with less participant negative emotions (β = −0.17). Greater e-mail frequency was associated with more perceived resident positive emotions (β = 0.28). Greater frequency of letters delivered by staff was associated with more participant negative emotions (β = 0.23). Greater frequency of letters delivered by staff and the postal service were associated with more perceived resident negative emotions (β = 0.28; β = 0.34, respectively).

      Conclusion

      These findings highlight the importance of synchronous, familiar methods of communication like the phone and email between families and LTC residents to maintain their emotional well-being when in-person visits are restricted.

      KEY WORDS

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