As the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases continues to surge late in the year, it has been recommended that New Jersey residents only spend the holidays with their immediate family or those they already live with. Unfortunately for many individuals, especially senior adults, the new traveling and social gathering guidelines means seeing family during this holiday season may not be possible. Individuals may also choose not to risk gathering with elderly loved ones due to underlying health issues and high-risk susceptibility to the virus. This is not ideal for many, as typically the holidays are a time to check in on your elderly loved ones. If you are not able to gather with your family this year, there are still ways to keep an eye on them to ensure their health and well-being.
Because isolated older adults’ health can decline fairly quickly, it is very important to stay in touch with them regularly. During unordinary times like the present, your elders may be suffering from the effects of isolation and lack of social interaction as many stay on lockdown. Although they are staving off the physical health risks of being exposed to the virus, the debilitating effects of isolation can be grueling, which include psychological distress, cognitive decline, weakened immune system, heart complications, and establishment of poor habits.
With new technology constantly evolving, there are a number of ways to keep in touch with your loved ones virtually during the holidays. Video chatting is becoming especially popular as the pandemic continues because it allows individuals to see and talk to each other while remaining in our own homes.
Regardless of which way you choose to connect with family members, make sure you keep them engaged by having them answer a few questions each time you talk. This can be anything from a casual question to something more in depth. Try having them talk about stuff from the past, present, and things that may happen in the future. Below are a few examples.
- What is your favorite memory of the holidays when you were little?
- What street did you grow up on? Tell me about an old neighbor.
- Who is the president?
Check on their daily routine
If you are on a video call, make sure to inquire about their daily life and routine:
- Are they getting their mail? Do they have a recent newspaper?
- Take a look at the floors – are they dirty?
- Does it look like they have good hygiene?
- Do they have groceries – is the milk expired?
- Have they taken the trash out?
You could also consider staying in touch with senior family members by sending a weekly care package or letter to let them know you are still thinking of them. This will keep them engaged and confirm that they are carrying out daily activities, such as getting the mail. Also keep in mind – letter writing is a lost art that many older adults really appreciate!