These last several weeks have tested us all. With schools, restaurants, social gatherings and all public events shut down, we are realizing how intertwined our lives are with one another.
And now, as we are forced to cocoon day after day with our immediate family (thank goodness for pets!), we are all feeling the strain.
For me, the hardest adjustment has been the abrupt removal of my parents from my daily life. They live nearby in a continuing care retirement community and in pre-COVID times we all got together frequently. Our kids loved using the pool there on weekend mornings!
Suddenly, all of that has stopped.
It’s hard for me, but it’s even harder for them, sequestered as they are in their small apartment, absent the routines and daily human interactions they used to enjoy. Like the rest of us, many seniors are feeling claustrophobic and anxious.
Which is why Alyson and I, along with our respective families, have taken several deliberate steps to keep mom and dad as comfortable and engaged with us as possible.
You can do the same for your loved ones! Here is what we suggest:
Create a Communications Plan
Now that every day feels the same, it’s easy to fall out of a routine and forget to check in. You can avoid that by establishing a regular communications schedule with your loved one.
A daily call after breakfast, a weekly FaceTime Sunday afternoon… whatever you decide, if you create and stick to a schedule, you’ll give everyone something to look forward to.
Many families default to having a single, everyone-at-once call with grandma. Those are fine, of course. But by asking family members to get in touch individually as well, you both increase the number of interactions and give grandchildren the opportunity for one-on-one time.
One helpful activity to keep the conversations rolling is to provide children with a fun question to ask their grandparents: “Tell me about your grandparents.” “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?” “What was your favorite pet of all time?”
Continue Doing Things Together
You can’t come together physically, but you can still recreate, virtually, many of the activities you used to enjoy as a family.
You can play online games. You can do Yoga. You can eat dinner, watch a movie, or enjoy a cocktail together.
Pre-COVID, these common, even mundane sorts of activities made up much of my interactions with my parents. We all miss those, so we are trying to recreate them as best we can with the wonderful and free technology that is now readily available.
You can’t enter the community — but your packages can. Amazon is still delivering, as is the post office, UPS and many local businesses. In some cases, you can even drop things off yourself.
Send food, books and care packages with fun and interesting items. Be creative — it need not be expensive. The pleasure is in the arrival of an unexpected treat and the reminder that those they love are thinking of them.
Today, our parents and older adult loved ones need us more than ever. Most of us are doing all we can to ensure their physical needs and safety are well taken care of.
But don’t stop there. The missing human touch can take a toll as well. Keep the connections strong and meaningful by putting these or other ideas into practice.