Staying in touch when you can’t visit.
My mother is 99 years old and going strong. She lives in a retirement community in Maryland. Maryland took early precautions when COVID-19 descended and visitors were prohibited at the end of the first week of March. Her facility has been adhering to all the guidelines and to date they have not had one COVID-19 case. That’s the good news. The bad news is that my sister and I were not able to be with her for her 99th birthday, and I haven’t seen her since early March. Social distancing will protect our elderly family members, but also brings on loneliness and isolation which can have serious health effects. While we can’t spend time with our loved ones, we can still give them our love and attention.
My mother is not able to visit with her friends during their quarantine, which continues – no ‘opening up’ for the very old in retirement communities. Here are some of the options to connect and to create ways to keep them busy and occupied when isolated:
- Video technology has been a huge help in connecting – FaceTime, Skype and Zoom. The staff at my mother’s retirement community are more than happy to set up ‘call’ appointments. They call me at the appointed time on my iPhone and my mother and I can visit and chat on FaceTime as if we were in the same room. Needless to say, as a woman who was born before the invention of the television, my mom is fascinated by how video chat works.
- If your older friend or relative is able to read and operate a tablet, give her a tablet loaded with books, or one that can easily access movies and TV shows.
- If they are unable to get out due to COVID-19, consider getting them some care giving if they don’t already have some. Just make sure the caregiver wears masks and gloves and is careful about exposure when they are out in the world.
- Have your kids plan and perform a video that you can send to your friend or family member. It can be re-watched whenever they want a smile.
- Send unexpected gifts. This maintains the connection and it is always enjoyable to receive a surprise. Gifts can be a photo album or scrapbook, puzzles, an electronic photo frame with photos, a favorite bottle of wine, a new recipe or an orchid.
- Send them funny cards or write them a newsy letter.
- Grocery shop for them or arrange a delivery service that will shop and deliver to them.
- Send photos along with a note telling them about plans you’ll make to be with them when it is safe. Have your children draw pictures or write stories.
- Do some TV research to find shows you think they will enjoy and encourage them not to watch too much news.
- If they play bridge or Mah Jongg, teach them how to play online, or at least observe ongoing games.
- If they can do gentle yoga, set up some online classes.
- If they usually attend church on Sundays, see if the church is doing services online.
- If they are able, suggest a project to work on like recording their biographies and memories, organizing photo albums, creating a family cookbook with their favorite recipes.
ASE subscriber S. H. sent us something she has done with her mother. It’s called StoryWorth. See the three steps below. www.storyworth.com.
See this earlier ASE article on writing memoirs and autobiographies: