4 Ways To Effectively Help Elders in Nursing Homes or Assisted Living Facilities
In these uncertain times, having an elderly loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility can feel disheartening. Knowing that we can’t participate in the same activities as way back in 2019, we have to adapt to the current world and make sure our loved ones are still living their best lives. Being away from family can be depressing in the best of times, but being surrounded by all of the restrictions made necessary by COVID-19 can heighten that feeling of isolation for a member of a nursing home or assisted living facility. All is not lost though, there are things you can do to
Here are four ideas for helping the elderly in nursing homes to make their lives a bit easier.
Digital conferencing apps exploded during Covid, for obvious reasons. Facetime, Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams… It really doesn’t matter what app you use. Keeping in touch while social distancing has been the key for maintaining sanity for large swaths of the population, but none more so than the elders in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Being able to talk to friends and family while maintaining a safe distance is absolutely crucial.
Is your loved one not hooked up for video conferencing? There are online resources for helpful, easy to understand steps on what to do, for the less technology-savvy of us, and to help the elderly get hooked up in their nursing homes. You can also contact the nursing home or assisted living facility and have someone on the staff be your proxy in setting this technology up. If circumstances allow, you can even send your loved one a tablet with the software already downloaded and ready to us. In 2021, videoconferencing is available to everyone and it can be a real gamechanger to keep your loved one’s spirits up.
Once you have them set up with videoconferencing, there are so many activities you can do virtually with the elderly in a nursing home! Some top ideas:
- Have a listening party – Music is therapeutic. Find out what music your loved ones adore, and listen to it with them.
- Share a meal – You can order the same things, and enjoy eating them together.
- Go over photo albums – Many video conferencing apps will let you share your screen. Scan some old photos, and have them on the screen while you talk about the good old days.
- Exercise! – You can walk your loved one through a low intensity workout, or dance with each other. Getting up and getting the blood pumping and endorphins flowing can be a great help to ward off depression.
Write a letter
Take it back to basics, and write your loved one a letter. If legibility or eyesight is an issue, you can write in large blocky letters, or provide your loved one with a magnification device to help them read (This is a good idea regardless.) You can also have other people write your loved one a letter. Start a penpal community, with your loved one at the center. One large advantage over video chats is that you will then have physical artifacts of your correspondence that you can appreciate later. This is a strange time, and those letters will be nice to look back on and reminisce about when the world was changed.
There are also PenPal groups specifically aimed at senior citizens. This group will pair your loved one with a student volunteer with the option of just receiving letters, or additionally greeting cards, or even phone calls, if everyone is comfortable with that. Here is one that is not just for students. You might find you want to join a penpal group too, so you and your loved one can exchange stories and encounters.
Deliver or Send Activities
Whether they are games, puzzle books, arts and crafts materials, or magazines, it is quite possible your elderly loved one is not able to go out and grab the things that keep them entertained. Rather than letting them watch television nonstop, make sure their curiosity, intellect, and reasoning are all being stimulated.
Sewing supplies, a jigsaw puzzle, or even something simple like a coloring book can be therapeutic, allowing an elderly person to focus their attention on soothing activities instead of the pandemic.
Find out what kind of activities your loved one enjoyed before the pandemic, and see if there aren’t smaller, portable options to replicate those activities. Were they a golfer? Send them a putter, and have them tap a ball into a horizontal cup. Also, enquire as to what activities for the elderly are being hosted by their nursing home. A good nursing home or assisted living facility will recognize the stress being inflicted on the elderly during this time, and has adapted to accommodate them.
Find Ways to See Each Other in Person, Safely.
As we learn more about COVID-19, it is clear that there are ways to reduce the danger of contracting or spreading the virus. Unfortunately, restrictions for full visitation won’t be lifted until more people get vaccinated. Even if your loved one has received a vaccine, if you have not been inoculated, or employees of the assisted living facility have not yet, there is still danger of transmitting the virus.
There are alternatives to full visitation, while meeting in person. Talk to your loved one’s assisted living facility or nursing home to see if they can facilitate alternative ways to visit. Maybe you can meet your friend or relative out in the open, while maintaining distance. Perhaps they can be at an open window, as you talk to them from the street. Some nursing homes have even set up special rooms where patients and their family can be in a sanitized space while keeping distance.
Nothing can replace the comfort of physical touch, but seeing your loved one in person can be an uplifting change of pace for their lives. Explore with their caretaker what your options are for safe in-person visits.