With older people especially vulnerable to COVID-19, many long-term care facilities have stopped allowing visitors. That’s created new challenges for residents, and for their loved ones who want to stay in touch, as Yamhill County resident Dana Dooley has learned first hand.

Last year, Dooley flew to Palo Alto, California, 32 times to visit her 88-year-old mother. Those visits have ground to a halt because of the coronavirus outbreak. Four residents of her mother’s residential facility have been diagnosed with COVID-19, as has one employee.

“I’m very scared,” Dooley said. “There’s a lot of unknowns here. Anything can happen and most of the things that can happen don’t seem to be very good.”

Her mother’s heath has not been affected by the outbreak. But Dooley worries about the effects of prolonged isolation on an older woman who is at her best when she is able to stay active, exercise, visit friends and attend events.

Now meals are being delivered directly to residents’ doors, and they are being asked to limit interactions with one another and staff to just the necessities. Dooley’s mom has a caregiver who is able to provide some support, but that’s just one person – and that’s more than many seniors have.

“My concern is that, without being able to see family and friends, without being able to get out in the world, she’ll start to shut down, more, cognitively,” Dooley said.

Dooley advises that people unable to visit older family members may need to be creative in order to stay in touch.

“Depending on your loved one, phone calls, letters – I’ve heard of people waving to their senior parents from outside the window,” she said. “Any way to let them know you are still there and you’re thinking of them.”