Staying close to a loved one when you can't be physically present can feel incredibly difficult. In the midst of the current crisis, many nursing homes and assisted living facilities are not allowing guests. Even more families are choosing to steer clear of senior loved ones in an effort to protect them from potential exposure. That can make it incredibly challenging to make Mom feel special and appreciated.
Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to help your loved one feel appreciated even when you can't be there in person--whether due to the current crisis or because your schedule has pulled you away during a difficult time.
1. Send physical cards and letters.
Many members of the older generation deeply appreciate physical cards and letters. Taking the time to choose a card or write a letter shows that you care deeply. It also gives your loved one something tangible to hold onto and look back on later, when she might be feeling a little lonely. If you know you will be apart for an extended period of time, consider spacing out several cards and sending them one at a time until you can come back together again.
2. Connect face-to-face from wherever you are.
You don't have to be completely separate from your loved one even if you can't be physically together. Technology is a game-changer when it comes to connecting with loved ones from afar. Consider using Facetime and Skype technology to connect with Mom for some of your normal activities. Try out some of these ideas:
Download the "Netflix Party" Chrome extension. This browser extension allows you to watch movies along with friends and loved ones from wherever you are. Any time one of you needs to pause the movie for some reason, it will pause on everyone's screen. You'll be able to chat while you watch the movie together, keeping everyone at that same moment in the movie.
Hold a virtual game night. You don't have to be physically together to play a wide range of games together. Buy two copies of the same game, and send one to Mom. Keep the other one with you. If you have family members and friends in other areas who want to join in, have them pick up the same game! Set the game up on the table. Each time one family member moves or plays, create the mirrored movement on the other game boards. It's a great way to bring everyone together from far away.
Have a meal "together." Coming together for family meals is a time-honored tradition--and thanks to technology, you can keep up with it even when you aren't able to connect physically. Schedule a meal together. Sit down and eat in front of your screens--the one time when it's beneficial to have your phone out at the dinner table! You can talk together, laugh together, and simply enjoy the time with one another no matter how far apart you might be physically.
Schedule a family conference call. There's nothing quite like having the entire family together, especially for your senior loved ones. If you can't get together in person, consider how you can manage it virtually. Set up a group event and invite everyone to attend. Bring family members both near and far together for a chat, a game, or simply to say hi. You might find that this is one tradition you want to keep up with on a regular basis, since it's a great chance to connect with the entire family, catch up, and "see" one another even when you can't be together in person.
3. Send flowers.
Do you want to brighten Mom's day and give her something to smile about? Send flowers! Many local florists will make carefully-constructed deliveries that are designed to bring a smile to her face. If your mom isn't the flower type, consider what other small gift you can send that will be sure to brighten her day.
4. Check in regularly via phone and text.
You might not have a video conference option that's readily available to you--or you might not always be where you can manage a full video conference. A phone call, however, is as easy as ever. Call and check in while you're doing laundry. Chat while you're preparing dinner. Send text messages filled with pictures of how your day is going, what the kids are doing, or even just funny things that you saw throughout the day. Just as these things help you continue to feel connected to your friends no matter how far away they are, you can use those things to feel more connected to Mom when you can't be together. Ask questions about her life, her days, and her health. Check in with her caregivers, if needed. You may ultimately end up with a better connection than you had when you were free to drop in.
5. Take advantage of social media.
Social media offers a wide range of options for connecting with loved ones, including senior loved ones who might not be able to connect in person with you right now. You can:
- Create a social media group just for the family, where you can share pictures, discuss plans, and feel connected to one another
- Share images and videos that will help Mom feel connected and part of things
- Start discussions about things that you enjoy together, from gardening to a virtual book club
- Keep up with a chat message filled with family members
- Share photos, videos, and content that you find interesting and engaging
Being separated from loved ones is hard--especially if you're worried that they aren't getting the quality of care they need during a difficult time. If you need more ideas for connecting with your loved ones, or if you need assistance providing care for a loved one when you can't do it yourself, contact us to learn more about how we can help bridge that gap and help your mom feel special and appreciated no matter how far apart you might be.