Strategies to manage the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic included widespread use of physical distancing measures. These well-intended strategies adversely affected long-term care (LTC) residents’ socialization and their caregiving arrangements, leading to exacerbation of social isolation and emotional distress for both residents and their caregivers. This study aimed to understand how these measures affected informal caregivers of people living in LTC homes in Ontario. Strategies to increase socialization and promote social connection during and post-COVID-19 were also explored.
This qualitative study used descriptive and photovoice approaches. Of the 9 potential caregivers identified, 6 participated in the study and shared their experiences and photographic reflections in virtual focus group sessions.
Findings highlighted the increased social isolation experienced by people living in LTC and their caregivers during COVID-19. Caregivers reported pronounced declines in residents’ well-being and were frustrated by challenges connecting with their family members during quarantine. Attempts made by LTC homes to maintain social connections, such as window visits and video calls, did not fulfill the social needs of residents and their caregivers.
Findings underscore a need for better social support and resources for both LTC residents and their caregivers going forward to prevent further isolation and disengagement. Even in times of lockdown, LTC homes must implement policies, services, and programs that promote meaningful engagement for older adults and their families.