For many families, intergenerational relationships are a very important part of everyday life. The new realities of social distancing have resulted in a number of new issues and concerns for families with older adults, whether they will be living in our homes, in their own homes, in long term care homes, or living with dementia. Here are some tips to help families stay connected to and support the older members of their families.
- Delivery: Offer to deliver groceries and essentials and leave them at their door to ensure they have what they need during this time. Sneak a special little treat in their boxes for an extra bit of love.
- Window Visits: Maintain that connection by visiting at the window of your loved one’s home and calling them so they can both see and hear you.
- Food: Food is something that holds a lot of important meanings for families. Discuss favourite recipes that your elderly loved one used to cook, look though old cook books together, ask them what they grew up eating, cook with them if they are living with you, or deliver home cooked favourite meals if they are not.
- Art: Have your children draw pictures for their elderly loved ones. Place them in the windows of your home, in the windows of their home, or mail it to them.
- Letter Writing: Write letters to your loved ones. Complete a package for them so they have a little something to open up each day. Make a calendar for your loved ones with little fun stories or loving messages so they have something to uplift them each day. Ask nursing staff to relay messages on communication boards.
- Life Story: Use this time to learn about and preserve the life and stories of your elders. Interview them in person if they live with you or over the phone. Ask them about important memories and interesting stories of their lives and create a memento for future generations.
- Photos: Look through older photos with your loved one and create scrap books. Or if they are not living with you, create photo albums for them to receive in the mail or for you to deliver to them. Include photos with names and stories so your loved ones can reminisce.
- Music: Play music for your loved one, dance, sing, reminisce. What was their favourite song when they were younger? What was their wedding song?
- Video Calls: If your loved one has access to a cell phone or computer; video calls are a great way to stay connected. Ask the nursing home what options they have.
- Activities: Deliver activities for your loved one such as fun magazines, decks of cards, or puzzle books to help keep them occupied.
- Adapt: Adapt games that your loved one with dementia used to enjoy to meet their new needs and abilities. If they loved playing cards, try easier games like go fish or crazy 8’s instead; have them practice shuffling or organizing the cards.
- Flowers: Decorate their yards or window areas with nice plants and flowers to help uplift them.
- Exercise: Use online videos to help guide you and your elderly loved ones through some chair exercises to help keep them physically active.
As difficult as the recent restrictions have been for families in a number of ways, it is important that we do our best to appreciate the good things in life, especially our families and the love we share for them. It is important that we continue to support each other, protect each other, and to enjoy the connections we still share during this time, as different as they may be. Every minute of love and joy that we can share during this time is a win. It is also important to remember that we are all human and not perfect. All we can do is our best and our best is good enough.
Amy Shaw, MSW, RSW
B. Skinner Coaching & Psychotherapy