Sunset Stories

COVID-19 Visitation Restrictions: What You Can Do Instead

Posted by Gayle Young on Mar 19, 2020 12:46:05 PM

As the nation strives to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), federal health authorities have instructed senior living communities to restrict all visitors and group activities. How to ease the strain on those affected most.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have issued directives to help protect older adults who are highly vulnerable to the harmful risks of COVID-19. In keeping with those orders, Sunset House, Sunset Village, and The Woodlands are restricting all visitors and canceling all group activities as required.

Family and friends are understandably concerned that residents could become isolated and lonely during the visitor ban. Indeed, loneliness is one of “three plagues” commonly found in senior living facilities, made more harmful when companionship is restricted.

While we understand the importance of—and are strong advocates for—keeping residents connected with others, these drastic steps became necessary to protect the health and safety of all residents and the professionals who care for them.

As we all grapple with the lifestyle hardships that the coronavirus scare is causing, here are some things you can do to minimize the effects of restricted visitation on the older adults you love.

Pick up the phone.

Hearing another person’s voice on the telephone often provides welcome contact to the outside world. Chatting with family members or friends helps break up the monotony associated with a lack of visitors or group activities.

If you and your loved one have smartphones, you can utilize apps (i.e., FaceTime, WhatsApp, WeChat, Messenger) to hold virtual face-to-face phone calls. Not only does video calling add a bit of fun to phone conversations, but you’ll also be able to watch for visual clues that could indicate your loved one is struggling with loneliness. Check your phone’s documentation to learn which apps work on your device.

Mail cards and letters.

Everyone loves receiving hand-written notes in the mail, and seniors are no exception. Keep a supply of general-purpose greeting cards on hand and mail one every week or so. Have you got news or gossip to share with someone living at Sunset? Why not tell them in a short letter, rather than in a phone call or email?

To make a broader impact, recruit your family and friends to send written communications to the beneficiaries of your notes, too. Who knows, the recipient may be inspired to write back to the writers—further establishing connections with other humans.

Send care packages.

Receiving an unexpected package of goodies is always fun. You could pack and ship your loved one an assortment of magazines, puzzles, or old family photos. Go online and order the person’s favorite food treats, preferred personal care products, or beloved author’s latest release. Or send a flower bouquet.

Count on Sunset to help.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Sunset Village caregivers delivered ice cream sundaes to residents’ rooms and asked, “What have you been doing to pass the time?” Residents posed for photos while holding up signs listing activities such as writing letters, drawing, watching television, reading, and talking on the phone. Staff posted the images on Sunset’s Facebook page.

That’s just one example of how Sunset is attempting to lessen the impact of visitor restrictions on our residents. Employees are spending more one-to-one time with residents to keep them engaged during this trying period. Of course, ice cream and social media fun can’t make up for missing moments with family and friends. However, with our initiatives and yours, we can help residents stay connected.


It’s always a good idea to check with Sunset’s staff about any restrictions that might apply to what you can send your family member or friend (i.e., potential food or dietary restraints, floral arrangement prohibitions, facility delivery instructions). Especially during this time, we will make every effort to accommodate your wishes.

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Topics: Nursing Homes, Residential Care, Safety, Loneliness, Isolation, COVID-19