The coronavirus pandemic has forced people to keep a distance from elderly loved ones. Senior living communities are under strict regulations to limit visitors and social interactions, and the facts show that seniors may be at higher risk of being affected by the novel coronavirus.
With a mountain of safety measures in place, you may be wondering, “Is it possible to keep in touch when we’re told to keep our distance?” With a little creativity and technology, the answer is yes.
1. Technology: Learn it, use it, love it
Recent advances in technology make it possible to “see” your loved ones even when you can’t see them in person.
Video Chat: Video chatting has become popular over recent years and especially during the pandemic when social distancing is encouraged. Humans not only crave conversation, but it’s natural to desire face-to-face interactions. Seeing your mom smile when you tell her you miss her or holding up a drawing that her granddaughter colored specially for her takes a normal phone conversation to the next level. Consider video chatting the “phone call 2.0.”
With several different applications and programs available for video calls, the only thing separating you and your aging loved one is a screen! Depending on your device (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc), select your application or program, and get started.
Here are the best free options: FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Google Duo, Go-To Meeting, Facebook Messenger
2. Mail: Rediscover the lost art of the hand-written note
With everyone logging on to the latest apps and computer programs to connect with friends, family and colleagues, it’s easy to forget a simpler time; a time when a handwritten note was carefully crafted and popped in the mailbox.
Consider writing a thoughtful note once a week and mailing it to your loved one’s home or senior living community. While you’re at it, think of those residents who may not have family sending cards or notes and write an extra letter to brighten the day of another senior who may feel isolated in your neighborhood or local senior living community.
If you have young children, get them involved! Have your kids paint a picture or craft a card for grandma or grandpa. One can never have too many paintings taped to the walls.
3. Gifts: Send a gift that keeps on giving
Whether your elderly loved one is quarantined at home alone or at a senior living community, a gift is the perfect way to send your love and keep in touch. Unlike a birthday or Christmas gift, send a gift that will offer some sort of activity. A new piece of jewelry or perfume is lovely, but when seniors feel stuck inside, an activity-provoking gift will go a long way.
- Gifts that stimulate the mind: A good novel; crossword puzzle book; adult coloring book
- Gifts that offer activity: A blank canvas and paint set; binoculars and a bird watching guide; jewelry making kit
- Gifts that have meaning: A custom puzzle with a family photo, a scrapbook with family memories, CD or thumb drive loaded with favorite songs
4. Window Visits: Say hello from outside
Window visits have become popular since the start of social distancing. If your loved one lives at home alone, schedule a time to stop by and sit outside the screened porch or window. Bring a lawn chair and a snack and enjoy conversation through the screen or over the phone while being able to see them through the window. It may sound silly, but the benefits are real for those who feel alone.
If your loved one lives at a senior living community, call the administrator or activities director to find out their policy on this type of visit. Many communities have organized safe drive-thru events where family and friends stay in their vehicles waving, holding signs and shouting “hello” to residents lined up outside.
While social distancing may separate us physically, it doesn’t have to separate your relationship with your aging parent or loved one. Use these tips to stay connected, and hopefully soon, when life returns to normal, you won’t feel as if precious time was lost amid this unforeseen season.