A care home group is supporting residents and their families with an “emergence plan” to help them adapt as coronavirus restrictions gradually lift over the coming months.

Sunrise Senior Living UK and Gracewell Healthcare have developed a protocol to help residents prepare for increased visiting opportunities as Covid measures ease.

The plan focuses on helping residents improve their mobility, mood, sleep and appetite – all of which may have suffered over the past year.

And it will help residents prepare for reuniting with loved ones and meeting grandchildren or great-grandchildren for the first time when this is allowed.

It recommends that staff encourage residents to share any hopes and concerns they may have about changes in restrictions and reconnecting with others, and provide reassurance.

In cases where cognitive decline has been pronounced, staff will make visitors aware of this in advance and guide them in conversations to minimise distress during visits.

Some residents may have lost confidence around social interaction after months with limited contact with the outside world.

These residents will be encouraged to buddy up with each other and take part in group activities within the home.

Others may become anxious about the risk of infection as homes start to open up to visitors.

From Monday, the Government has said each care home resident can receive indoor visits from a nominated relative or friend, who will be tested and wear protective gear.

Anna Selby, head of the group’s Covid-19 taskforce, said the aim of the protocol is to address residents and families’ “anxieties and expectations” as care homes increasingly reintegrate with the outside world.

She said: “Every step of the pandemic the different lockdown periods have taken a period of adjustment… every time it’s been a rollercoaster, but not necessarily for our residents – for them it’s been quite continuous, and how difficult is it going to be to make that adjustment?

“I might be wrong, but I think we need to be prepared for that… are people going to be scared?”

Ms Selby said some residents may find it very difficult to share their anxieties for fear of upsetting relatives who are desperate to see them.

She said: “We need to start off with that meaningful conversation, not necessarily a clinical conversation, just ‘How are you feeling? What are you looking forward to? What does it mean to you?’, and test it out.

“And it may be that ‘I’m really looking forward to it and I’m fine, and I can’t wait and I’m going to start preparing and start ordering new clothes’, but other people might feel ‘Actually, I’m really overwhelmed’.

“When people have visits in the visiting room, and a family can come, some people find it quite overwhelming because they’re so used to that smaller contact.”