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

Joan K. Monin, Talha Ali, Sumaiyah Syed, Amanda Piechota, Michael Lepore, Catalina Mourgues, Joseph E. Gaugler, Richard Marottoli, Daniel David

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1299-1307
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Long term care facilities
  • communication
  • dementia
  • emotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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