If you are like many during the lock-down, you have assumed the role of “Superwoman,” or “Superman.” You may be dealing with children at home, your job, or lack of, the bills and staying safe. It can all become overwhelming. Then for some of you, add taking care of a parent who is in a nursing home or assisted living community to the list, and your head might feel as if it will explode.
Unable to visit during these COVID-19 times, you cannot see for yourself how your loved one is doing. Is mom getting enough to eat? How are my dad’s spirits? Are my parents physically stable or in decline? Are they getting the attention they need?
You need the staff to be on your side so they can work as your advocate, your eyes and ears. It is very important to be empathetic to what they are going through. Almost certainly, the facility is down staff and dealing with a situation that is as new to them as it is to you. Approach the administrators, caregivers, and nurses with love in your heart. Be patient if you leave a message and you don’t get a call back right away. You are one of many people they are dealing with every minute of the day.
Set a Schedule
Using video conferencing can be a terrific way to communicate with your family member, but it is likely they will need assistance from the staff. If you would like an update or to Facetime with your parent, try to set a schedule with the facility. That way the expectations are known on both sides. Since you are not able to visit, it is easy for misunderstandings to arise quickly. Clear communication and setting of expectations helps keep the temperature down for everyone involved.
Send Cheerful Notes & Photos
Yes, send old fashioned written cards and letters. This is a particularly good activity if you have children at home. You can teach them how to use envelopes and stamps. As children, they love to draw with markers and crayons. As an adult, you can share with your loved one how much their love and support has meant to you over the years. Share what you have always wanted to say.
You may not be able to visit your parent in person, but you can send them their favorite music. Studies have shown that music is deeply rooted in our conscious and unconscious brains. Music can awaken the brain and with it, the rich trove of memories that are associated with familiar songs or beloved pieces.
Use Window Visits Sparingly
Saying hello through a window or from a driveway can provide great reassurance for your parent if she is cognitively alert, but it can be confusing for someone with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. People with cognitive impairment may be unable to process or retain the reasons you are not able to come in. Instead of being a positive experience, it can be upsetting. Before you do a drive-by visit, make sure your mom or dad has the capacity to understand why you are not coming inside.
Remember, You Are Awesome!
Your caring is a gift. So many older adults have no one to worry about them. Your loved one is lucky to have you. The best thing you can do is stay healthy yourself so that you can continue to be there for your parent and all those who love you.