Ways To Communicate With Loved Ones In Senior Living Communities

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Donna Mae Scheib

Ways To Communicate With Loved Ones In Senior Living Communities

Posted by Donna Mae Scheib on April 22, 2020

Ways To Communicate With Loved Ones In Senior Living Communities

As the COVID-19 pandemic causes senior living facilities’ doors and much of everyday life to close, seniors and their loved ones are finding alternative ways to stay in touch. Older adults are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus, so many communities, nursing homes, and other facilities now bar visitation. However, older adults’ higher rates of isolation and associated mental health issues such as depression make it more important than ever for them to communicate with loved ones. Fortunately, many people are now using new and old means of remote communication while stay-at-home orders are in effect. Here are some ways seniors and their loved ones can communicate, enjoy each other’s company, stay safe, and exchange gifts without leaving home.

Video Chatting

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly increased many people’s use of video chatting apps such as Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, and WhatsApp. These programs have seen use for business calls, online classes, club meetings, and live streams (such as symphony concerts). However, video chatting is also indispensable for families and friends who wish to communicate face-to-face. They have the distinct advantage of allowing multiple people to chat altogether, making them ideal for sharing thoughts and feelings. They also facilitate many games and hobbies that seniors and their loved ones can share from afar. While some communications should be dedicated to ensuring loved ones’ safety and physical health, video chatting is particularly great as a way to boost morale –especially as a group.

Traditional Communication Methods

Phone calls and mail, plus the modern digital offshoots of texting and email, are very effective for brief communications and well-wishing. Phone calls are ideal for long between two or only a few people, while texting, emails, and online messaging can help seniors’ loved ones briefly check in on them and provide health reminders. Many seniors are increasingly sending and receiving mail at this time, as handwritten letters and gifts from loved ones brighten their days. As many people under quarantine take up hobbies such as knitting, handcrafting, art, photography, music, genealogy, making baked goods, and more, gift ideas are myriad. Nowadays, even linking loved ones to helpful and enjoyable webpages can be a gift. There is also the option to send puzzles or other games that they will enjoy.

Remote Games and Hobbies

As mentioned, video and phone calls allow people to share traditional games and hobbies remotely. Many people share board games by setting up identical boards in their respective homes and sharing a call to keep track of each other’s moves. Book clubs and movie watching have also gone virtual, with many sharing a conversation with loved ones after they have watched a movie or read a few chapters of a book. Online book clubs and discussion groups such as SeniorChatters also allow seniors to share this experience on the web. Seniors often read to their young grandchildren and share impressions of books with children and older grandchildren; loved ones of seniors with memory loss also read or sing to them through video chats. Additionally, app stores have virtual equivalents of classic games that seniors can play on their own or with loved ones.

Delivery Services

Many seniors already require delivery services in order to get groceries or meals. At this time, seniors’ loved ones have often taken the opportunity to buy them some of their favorite meals or snacks. Eating with the company has health benefits due to accountability for the other person’s nutrition, so mealtimes are another ideal opportunity for arranging calls. Delivery services such as DoorDash and Grubhub provide meals on schedules while shopping services such as Instacart, Amazon Fresh, Peapod, and Fresh Direct deliver groceries. Seniors’ loved ones can also do the shopping themselves and deliver the groceries to living facilities within the appropriate social distance. This option may be preferable to some, as many delivery services experience strain from an influx of orders. Many seniors who cook for themselves will enjoy the chance to prepare familiar, cherished meals.

Staying Safe via Remote Communication

In addition to the aforementioned mental health benefits, staying in contact with loved ones will allow seniors to stay physically healthy. COVID-19 is especially harmful to the elderly due to weakened immune systems and high rates of preexisting conditions –yet many seniors do not disclose health problems due to stubbornness or fear of burdening others. It is more important than ever for seniors’ loved ones to monitor their health remotely and help them contact their doctors or go to the hospital if they show symptoms of COVID-19. Staying in contact also helps seniors’ loved ones understanding if they are eating, hydrating, and taking medication on schedule.

Frequent communication with loved ones can also help seniors with physical health issues related to the quarantine itself. For instance, families can share advice about ways to exercise without violating quarantine now that senior centers and exercise groups have closed. For seniors in assisted living facilities or nursing homes, loved ones should contact staff in order to be sure they are receiving adequate care and that the facility is prepared to handle an outbreak. Seniors, their loved ones, and facility staff can communicate to make sure there is healthy, lasting food available for seniors such as citruses, nuts, and tea.

One difficulty in communicating digitally is that many seniors have not adjusted to new technology. Solutions to this problem include easily accessible devices such as GrandPad, which provide an intuitive user experience for most of the video chatting apps. In other cases, seniors who only use phones and mail can still receive communication and deliveries from their loved ones. For seniors willing and able to adjust, learning the new technology can be one of many educational experiences that make quarantine easier.

While the present crisis is daunting and unprecedented, keeping the lines of communication open with your loved ones provides needed comfort on all sides. It is a vital step not only in protecting seniors from the coronavirus but also in keeping them in good health and good spirits overall.

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