The coronavirus outbreak has affected nearly every American’s daily life in one way or another. For seniors, sheltering in place has been one of the most critical preventative measures against the virus. In senior living communities, that’s meant the daily routines, such as dining and activities, of residents have been modified to maintain social distancing and visitors are not permitted.
In these uncharted times, it’s more important than ever to stay connected and find new ways to support and comfort our loved ones from afar. There’s no single means for keeping up morale—some rely on encouragement, others rely on consistent communication or staying active. At Belmont Village Senior Living, our staff continue to engage residents in activities that stimulate the body and mind. There are also ways for families to continue regular engagement with your loved one and let them know that out of sight does not mean out of mind. Here are a few ideas:
- Send a good old-fashioned, handwritten letter.
There’s something very special about a thoughtful, handwritten card or letter. Encourage your friends and family to send snail mail to your loved one. The recipient can return to the letter again and again and display it in their apartment as a reminder of family love.With Project Smile, Belmont Village is encouraging kids across the country to send a smile to a senior with a handmade card or drawing. Visit belmontvillage.com/locations to find a community in your area and send the mail to ATTN: Project Smile.
- Include photos in your letters and messages.
Consider including photos in the letters, texts, or emails you send to your loved one. For residents with mild to moderate memory loss, a photo can be comforting as well as a visual reminder. Photos of yourself, your family, pets, surroundings and even old family photos can help make your letter more meaningful.
- Schedule regular virtual visits.
Many senior living communities are coordinating video chat calls using Skype, Zoom, FaceTime and other platforms. At Belmont Village, we’ve supplied our communities with extra tablets and staff can coordinate and facilitate these calls regardless of whether your loved one has a smart phone. If you are able, schedule calls with your loved one regularly to get back into a routine of usual visits.Even a quick chat will bring joy to your loved one, but why not plan an activity that the whole family can join? You can share a virtual meal and have their favorite dish delivered, work on a crossword together, or even schedule a book club meeting and ask the kids to read to grandma or grandpa. Think of the activities you normally do together, and there’s a good chance you can translate them to a digital date.
- Do an activity together, from afar.
Find an activity that you can do together with your loved one from afar. Many activities can be done over video calls or done separately and discussed on the phone later. Doing activities together, even when we’re apart, can help make us feel more connected to one another.
You can watch the same TV show or movie, such as an old favorite or a new documentary. Start a book club with your family, and encourage your loved one to choose the first book. You can have meetings using video calls. Jigsaw puzzles and crosswords are also fun activities to do together on video calls, even if you have don’t have the same puzzles on hand.
COVID-19 has presented new challenges for seniors, families and caregivers that are being met with innovative and uplifting solutions. Watch our blog for updates and more resources to help manage the coronavirus’ impact on seniors and families.