Social distancing is a necessary protocol to keeping safe in today’s world, particularly if you have a beloved family member living in a memory care facility. Not only do you have to actively prioritize their safety, but you will also need to think about the safety of all residents in their community. Unfortunately, for many families, this means keeping your distance or possibly not visiting in order to protect your loved ones. At Pipestone Place, we understand how difficult this can be, but it doesn’t mean you cannot be present in your loved one’s life. How? The best way to weather this social distancing storm is to stay connected while still following all safety protocols.
Thankfully, there are a few different ways to do this, and we are happy to share some everyday tips with you that we’ve found have helped families bridge the gap during this difficult time.
Take Advantage of Technology
Technology can be confusing, but it’s essential to take advantage of it in every way possible. Thankfully, most senior living facilities will have staff members who can assist with technology needs, so you don’t have to spend all of your time and efforts troubleshooting. FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or some other telecommunication services can help to bridge the physical distance – whether you are trying to keep your loved one safe because you work with the public or because you are miles away.
Unfortunately, while phone calls are always appreciated, they can be confusing for your loved one who is suffering with a memory disorder. So, particularly in memory care senior living situations, seeing you on screen can be a big help and truly brighten their day. Try to set up a routine where you talk at a certain time or on a certain day. This will help caregivers as well as your loved one to understand what is happening.
It’s always best to ask caregivers if they offer assistance with technology services because FaceTime with your loved ones in memory care facilities is essential to keeping them positive, uplifted, and looking forward to future calls.
Send Little Mementos
From age 2 to 99, everyone loves receiving little gifts to remind them they are special, cherished, and thought of. Sending along little mementos so your loved one knows that he or she is loved is an amazing way to stay connected even when you can’t be physically present. Whether you want to buy something they will need or have your children or grandchildren paint pictures, these little mementos can help replace physical touch and lift their spirits in your absence.
As we weather this “new normal” together, you will obviously have to be mindful about what you send. It can be difficult to send food items which can be contaminated, so you should check with your particular memory care community before sending anything. You want to ensure that your loved one will be safe and be able to enjoy your little “thinking of you” gift.
Even better, if you have any pictures of yourself, your children, or other family members, send those along too, so your loved one can feel like they still get to see the family (and the kiddos as they grow). Each package or mailing doesn’t need to be something massive that requires hours of prep work – sometimes simple and thoughtful is best!
Have A Storytime With the Grandkids
Kids especially are really having a difficult time with the pandemic, and when you add that to dealing with a family member who lives in a memory care community, it can be overwhelming. So, take some pressure off yourself, your loved one, and your kids by planning a story time. You can read the story to both your loved one and your kids or grandchildren. This is a great opportunity to send a little care package or a memento to your loved one before the call, so they are ready for it. Or, you can read the book together, and then have your children do a little project and send it over. These little reminders are good interaction for everyone involved.
If you have children who are older, you can even get them involved in reading the story. Stick with shorter books that can be read within a single visit – while reading the Harry Potter series may seem like a good idea, it can be extremely difficult for someone with memory problems to keep the story straight over weeks or months. Again, simplicity is perfect!
Quality Over Quantity: Aim for Shorter, More Frequent Discussions
Can’t fit longer discussions into your schedule? No problem! In these new situations, we are all trying to make things work and do our best – and that’s completely ok. Homeschooling, working from home, grocery shopping, and trying to keep your head straight takes up a lot of time. Even so, it is important to work your loved one into your routine whenever possible. Short and sweet conversations will still mean the world to your loved one who is craving your attention.
We’ve found that people who have shorter, more frequent discussions are able to keep up much more easily. Even if you just call for 5 minutes, it will make your loved one’s day – more than you can ever imagine! Shorter, more frequent conversations are also usually easier on the individual with memory issues because there’s not as much pressure to keep up and remember things. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Treasure the Memories: Record Everything You Can
If you do have more time on your hands because you aren’t working, maybe now is the time to improve your connection and make memories that last. Think ahead of time, what can you talk about with your loved one that will entertain and interest them? Write down questions and try to preserve as much of their answers as possible. Many of the video calling tools have recording options that you can utilize. Talk about anything – their past, their favorites movies and songs, things they loved, or just the weather. These will be videos that you will treasure for years to come that can also be passed down to preserve their memory.
Of course, with memory care, there may be moments when your loved one doesn’t feel their best, but thankfully, you can always stop recording whenever need be. Even video snippets can serve as lifelong mementos that you will cherish.
With social distancing protocols in full effect, memory care facilities in San Antonio have been working around the clock to keep life as normal as possible for our residents. And while it can be difficult, it is possible. Every memory center will adhere to different policies regarding what the family can and cannot do, so your best bet is usually to speak with the memory care specialists and trained caregivers taking care of your loved one, and remember to be flexible.
Everyone is navigating this “new normal” together, but staying connected with your loved one always comes first at Pipestone Place.
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