Moving into an assisted living community can be a daunting task for some seniors. It is more than just moving from one home to another. It can feel like the end of their lives. For some, it signals a loss of independence. It means leaving the things that are familiar to them and the neighbors they know and starting over in an unfamiliar place.
In a perfect world, we can be there for the people we love. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Some family members live too far away to make the trip. Others may have demanding jobs or work a schedule that doesn’t allow them to stop by during daytime hours.
And then there’s the possibility of something outside of your control stopping you from visiting as the COVID-19 pandemic did for so many families. Even loved ones who lived locally could not visit their senior loved ones until the situation improved.
So, what can you do when circumstances do not make it possible to be there in person? The good news is that there are several ways you can reach a loved one in assisted living when you can’t be there.
- Connect Through Text Chat
Many of today’s seniors are more tech savvy than they used to be. Some have smartphones just like their younger family members. Find a text chat app that works for your senior. They may be able to use whatever comes with their phone or download a third-party messaging app designed for seniors.
Look for something that will work using WiFi so they can avoid consuming their mobile data. It may be best to find something simple if your loved one struggles with tech. Other seniors may be able to work with an app that includes extra features like video messaging or stickers.
- Use Video Conferencing
Video conferencing is another option that takes things a step beyond text chat. Many assisted living facilities used this during the pandemic to give residents a way to see and hear their loved ones at the same time. It feels more personal and allows you both to look at each other, which can be reassuring.
Setting up a video conferencing tool will also empower your loved one to stay closer to other family members both near and far.
If they have trouble with a small screen, consider investing in a tablet PC. It’s still portable and easy to use and store but will give them a bigger picture to look at while chatting. The icons can be made larger which is good for people with impaired vision.
Electronic devices are also appealing to seniors with hearing difficulties because they have built-in volume controls or can be used with headphones.
- Try a Photo Sharing App or Digital Frame
Families have collected and shared photos for generations. The digital age makes it possible to send those photos anywhere without losing the physical copy. You can use this as another way to stay in touch with your loved one in assisted living.
Download a photo sharing app on their phone or tablet. Then you can send photos at any time of anything that you are doing. You can send old photos when you’re feeling nostalgic or upload pictures of what you’re doing now. Seeing these photos can help your loved one feel included.
Digital picture frames are another great choice for seniors. These are electronic frames that display the photos you upload to them. Most include an app that multiple people can use so the entire family can upload photos for their elderly loved one.
- Write an Old-Fashioned Letter
It may seem old-fashioned, but your senior may enjoy receiving a handwritten letter. There’s something exciting about receiving mail. This is also an easy thing you can do regularly, like sending a monthly update (or however often works best for you).
Write about your day, life changes, big news, or how the family is doing. You can even spark conversations about things that your loved one is interested in, so they start writing back. Those letters can also be saved as a special family heirloom for future generations. Even if they aren’t saved, a letter from a loved one can mean a lot in the moment.
- Send Them a Post Card
Postcards used to be a popular way to say hello when traveling. People would look for postcards with fun, unique, or beautiful images to send to someone back home.
You can do the same by finding fun postcards to send to your loved one. If you are traveling or far away, look for something that shows something local. You can also find postcards with a theme that your loved one will enjoy. For example, if they loved camping when they were young, find postcards with images of forests or mountains.
These can be sent as well as letters or are a good alternative for people who don’t like to write a lot. You can pen a quick note on the back and send it off as a reminder that you are thinking of them.
- Give Them a Call
With all the ways we can communicate now, sometimes a simple phone call does the trick. If your schedule allows it, plan a call every so often to say hello. You can hear each other’s voices and catch up on events.
This may be a better option for seniors who have no tech knowledge or no desire to learn technology.
- Have a Family Liaison
If other family members are able to visit your loved one, consider asking one of them to be a liaison. This is someone that can pass a message along for you or bring letters, gifts, and anything else you may want to give your senior.
While this isn’t the most ideal situation, since your loved one would likely enjoy hearing from you directly, it is another option. Using multiple methods can also be a good way to stay in touch and make sure your loved one knows that you care about them.
- Mail a Care Package
Receiving mail can be fun, especially when it’s more than a small envelope. Consider putting together an occasional care package to send to your loved one in assisted living. Add anything they might need along with fun things they would enjoy.
This can include anything from books and activities to keepsakes, photos, or even gag gifts to make them laugh.
If you are sending food items, make sure you check in with the assisted living facility to verify that it’s ok based on your loved one’s dietary needs.
Talk to Staff About Remote Communication Options
Many assisted living communities established remote communication methods during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff helped seniors set up apps, smartphones, and tablet PCs so that they could stay in touch with loved ones.
If you cannot be there to set things up for your family member, call the facility and see if someone there can do it.
Casas Senior Assisted Living welcomes seniors and their loved ones. Contact us to learn more about how we help residents stay in touch with the people they care about.