The coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on our daily lives. Although it is inspiring to see each other maintaining social distancing as much as possible for the common good, many are feeling negative impacts, such as loneliness and isolation. These feelings can be especially damaging for older adults.
Luckily, even though most senior living facilities are restricting visitation right now, social distancing doesn’t have to mean total separation. Here are some creative ways to stay connected with your loved one when you can’t visit.
1. Send Virtual Mail
Possibly the easiest, quickest way to check in is to drop a note via email. Even if your loved one doesn’t have their own device, their community likely has computers available. Everyone is paying special attention to safety and hygiene right now, so these community devices are likely as clean and sanitary as they’ve ever been! It’s OK to check in about coronavirus-related things, but try to keep it light sometimes, too — write a few lines about a book you’re reading, attach a picture of a pet, or get the grandkids in on the fun and let them write about what they’re learning in online school.
2. Send Physical Mail
Email is great, but nothing makes you feel connected to the outside world like getting a handwritten letter or a personal card. Again, aim for lighthearted and loving; your loved one will be thrilled to know you were thinking of them. This can also be a great way to flex those creative muscles: Make your own card to send, or have the grandkids draw pictures to include in the envelope.
3. Deliver Handmade Gifts
You’ve likely noticed that crafting and baking are suddenly more popular than they were even a few months ago. The upward trend in these areas might be partly attributable to boredom, but the truth is that making something by hand is actually good for your mental health. If you find yourself baking an extra loaf of bread, see if you can safely deliver it to your loved one’s community staff so they can pass it on. Or, to take it a step further, consider learning a new craft or art form at the same time as your loved one. Activities such as drawing or knitting help keep seniors’ minds active, and it will be fun to compare your progress the next time you’re able to visit.
4. Read or Watch Something Together
Although it’s not the same as being in a room together, reading the same book or watching the same show from a distance can still be a fun shared experience. Set a reading schedule and talk about the book every few days, or try a more formal online book club together. TV fans who are a bit tech-savvy might enjoy checking out an app like Netflix Party, which lets two or more people stream a show or movie at the same time and chat about it in a window off to the side.
5. Schedule Regular Video/Phone Check-Ins
Many people are feeling discouraged about canceled plans, from big travel events to weekly visits to loved ones in senior living. But with a little help from technology, you can keep your regularly scheduled visits on the books — they’ll just look a little different. Shift your in-person visits to video conferences using an app such as Zoom, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts. If that feels a little too advanced, a good old-fashioned phone call will still brighten your loved one’s day. Put it on speaker phone so the whole family can say hello. You could even loop in family and friends who don’t live nearby via conference call to facilitate the feeling of a big group visit.
6. Schedule a Window Visit
It’s wonderful to have technology that allows us to see each other’s faces from far away, but it’s no substitute for the real thing. Even though you can’t go inside to visit your loved one, you may be able to stop by and see each other through the window. Talk to the staff at your loved one’s community, and they will likely be willing to set up a “window visit” so you can share some good news, show off what the kids have been working on, or even let the family pet say hello.
Social distancing is difficult for all of us, but it doesn’t mean that you’re alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the staff at your loved one’s senior living community. At Arbor Terrace of Asheville, we are happy to help our residents and their loved ones stay connected in any way we can during this challenging time.