Connecting with Aging Loved Ones During COVID
This COVID pandemic has been hard for everyone, but especially our aging loved ones or those with underlying health conditions.
Here are some ways to safely visit these family members, while social distancing!
- Decorate their yard or door with messages from you and your kids or seasonal decorations.
- Have a car parade with other family/friends, or even just decorate your own vehicle for a driveway visit.
- Bring (or send) a favorite meal and dessert, and you can eat outside on the porch or yard. Lots of restaurants are offering packaged meals, so this is becoming a little easier to manage now that we’re several months into the pandemic.
If visiting isn’t a possibility (it isn’t for my parents, who are out of state), then here are some ways we can stay connected during covid:
- Gather video birthday/anniversary/just because greetings from friends and family to include in a video.
- Get friends/family to email you letters that you can include in a scrapbook.
- Order a StoryWorth subscription. A StoryWorth gift subscription has been an incredible way for me to learn about my parents and my parents-in-law. It asks weekly questions (that you can select if you want), and your loved ones can go into as much or little detail about their lives, even including pictures.
- Give a digital picture frame pre-loaded with favorite pictures.
- Make a certificate to do something fun together when social distancing restrictions are lifted.
- Coordinate FaceTime and/or family Zoom calls. Some like the group chat and others prefer spreading the love throughout the day/week. Others like to have a scheduled day and time so they know it’s not an inconvenience to anyone.
- Become pen pals with the grandkids. Snail mail that isn’t junk mail is so fun to receive, no matter how old or young you are! It’s also a great way to share the art work that’s piling up in your house if you have young kids!
- Play Words with Friends or other virtual games that allows you to interact.
- Join Marco Polo, WhatsApp, or SnapChat to allow for interaction at their/your convenience.
- Send a picture or two a day of what’s going on in your life.
- Have your kids read aloud to the grandparents, or vice versa! You can record a video or be live with Zoom or FaceTime.
- Ask your parents to send you the recipe for a favorite dish or two, then call or FaceTime while you’re preparing it so they can walk you through their method.
- If they have Netflix or a similar service, decide to watch a show together and discuss the latest episode after watching it. Or, just ask them for recommendations of favorite movies and then call to give your thoughts afterwards. Same goes for podcasts!
- If you can’t easily find a restaurant to deliver a meal to them, check out Spoonful of Comfort. They can send soup, bread, and cookies for comfort in a box.
If you’re looking for COVID -safe activities to encourage your aging loved ones to do on their own, consider some of these:
- Go on walks; the vitamin D is so good for physical and mental health, in addition to the low-impact exercise.
- Take tai chi or yoga classes online. These are great to maintain core strength and balance for fall prevention.
- Ask them about hobbies they used to enjoy. See if you can help them gather the supplies to pick up that hobby again – or connect them with someone local who can help.
- Do crossword puzzles or computer games like Lumosity for brain health.
- Cook new foods from a cookbook or try new restaurants via takeout/delivery.
- Garden. If mobility is an issue, maybe potted plants on a window sill or a raised planter bed would work.
- Sew masks or blankets for hospitals like CHLA.
- Learn a new instrument. (My mom is learning guitar through free YouTube tutorials!)
- Write notes/ cards to people in nursing homes.
- Listen to books on Audible if access to books isn’t easy.
- Check out some podcasts.
- Take a class through the Great Courses. They have hundreds of courses on so many topics.
Isolation is one of the most crushing aspects of this pandemic, especially for those of our older loved ones who are especially vulnerable. Thank you for taking the time to read through some suggestions of ways to bring joy to your loved ones even when we have to get a bit more creative to share our love!
Jill Love, MBA, MA, is a senior care consultant, geriatric care manager, and mom of two in Redondo Beach. She is the founder and president of Peters & Love and works with families to assess care needs, evaluate options, and create a plan of care. Her goal is to provide peace of mind to families by helping them navigate the world of senior care. You can learn more about her at www.petersandlove.com.