One unforeseen consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the sundering of our relationship with our parents and especially with our grandparents. Lockdowns, social distancing and closed borders have thrown our ability to touch base into chaos.
This can have profound effects, especially for our most vulnerable loved ones. Those 65 and older, often living in aged care or assisted living facilities are high-risk candidates.
For many of us, keeping our parents and grandparents safe has often meant keeping them isolated from external visits. Needless to say, staying safe from infection has frequently meant finding other ways to maintain points of connection.
Feeling socially isolated is detrimental to our seniors’ mental and physical health. Social isolation has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, cognitive decline, obesity, a weakened immune system and depression.
Here are seven safe and creative ways to stay engaged with your seniors during this difficult time.
1. Take The Pain Out Of Videoconferences
Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime are all tools that allow families to regularly connect via videoconferences. Most of these platforms and apps are free and easy to download or come pre-loaded on a mobile phone.
Go with the platforms and apps your parents and grandparents find easiest to use. If they already have a smartphone, computer or tablet with a built-in videoconference platform, go with that. Alternatively, if they have are already using an app and are comfortable with that option, work with that one.
2. Share Family Memories
One way to reassure parents and grandparents in this time of deep uncertainty and anxiety many of use maintain rich family connections by sharing simple pleasures, be it:
- Photos and videos
- Music links
- Snapshots showing what you’re up to at home, in the garden or while working from home
- Amusing jokes and videos
Regularly sharing snippets can help keep our extended family bound together. Now is the time to sort through those old VHS tapes gathering dust in garages and storage units. Take advantage of VHS to Digital technology to transfer them to the Cloud and share them during your next Zoom or Skype call.
3. Remember Snail Mail?
The art of letter writing is not yet dead in the age of COVID-19. Writing your parents or grandparents a letter if a great way to give them an emotional boost.
Dashing off a short three-page weekly letter is a nice way to surprise your loved ones when you can’t call or be together. Not only is sending letters an untapped source of joy, but it’s also safe!
You can also use the time to transfer your old videotapes to digital using VHS to DVD technology. If your parents or grandparents have a DVD player or a computer with a DVD drive, sending them a bundle of your old family holidays or golden moments caught on videotape is a lovely way to keep those old memories fresh in their minds.
4. Enjoy A Virtual Vacation Together
Okay, most art galleries and museums are currently closed to the public. However, thanks to technology, you can explore the world together with your family from the security of your own home.
Set up a group video call and take a virtual tour of an online museum or National Park together. The Louvre, Guggenheim Museum and other major cultural centres offer free online virtual tours. And you’ll even enrich your own life along the way.
5. Arrange Your Own Window Visit
We’ve all seen those touching images of people sitting outside the window of their elderly family members outside their senior care home. Likewise, we’ve seen those shots of seniors sitting outside their grandkids windows as they reconnect.
Sure, these visits are a little constrained by the need for some family members to stay safely outside. But you can still chat with your loved ones on the phone or swap handmade signs with messages. Simply being able to see each other, somehow reduces the stress of enforced separation.
Round out your window visits with porch visits. Have your loved ones sit on their porch while you and your friends sit in your car or on a folding chair in their yard. Alternatively, your parents or grandparents can watch their grandkids draw without placing them in jeopardy.
6. Set Up A Family Virtual Book Club Or Schedule A Movie Night
Many people are coming together by joining a virtual book club. Set up regular video chats to discuss the latest book choice. Or plug your parents and grandparents into a virtual book club as a backstop. While they may not personally know the other readers in their group, it’s nice to share a common sense of community, when you’re not busy staying connected by phone or online!
We may not be able to invite family or friends around to watch a movie or go to the cinema but doesn’t mean you can’t share a virtual movie night. Set up a Netflix Party using a plug-in that enables you to stream a movie at the same time. It even has a chat function that allows you to live chat while you’re watching. This can bring back that Friday night movie vibe!
7. Pick Up Your Phone!
Take the time to pick up your phone and talk. It’s important to remember to call whether that’s a spur of the moment call or schedule a day and time to call regularly for a family conversation.
It may be old school, but a phone call still works. If you sense your folks are feeling stressed or under pressure while isolating, dial up the frequency of your calls.
As measures to ensure social distancing seems to go on forever, it remains important to connect with your parents or grandparents. Make sure you understand their health needs and monitor their mental health to ensure they don’t feel isolated and alone. While government isolation restrictions may prevent you from being together physically, you can still maintain those healthy family connections.