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Being There For A Loved One… When You Can’t Be There

It can be frightening and confusing to be separated from a family member during this coronavirus outbreak. Yet to protect those currently at most risk of complication from COVID-19, many of us have to keep our distance. In addition to following guidance from your doctors and the CDC, here are some additional tips I’ve found to be game-changing.

 

1. Stay Connected

Even if we can’t be physically close, there are so many ways to stay connected. Video calls and video conferencing are a great way to literally see your loved ones and stay in touch. Find a video chat platform that works for you, whether it’s Facetime or Zoom, on a phone or a computer.

Remember that for someone who didn’t grow up with today’s tech, it can be easier to answer a video call than to figure out how to place one. Also keep in mind that video calls can be difficult for the hard of hearing, especially if there’s a slight lag or echo, or if a few people are trying to talk at once. So if you’re showing off the grandchildren, plan to spend half the call with the joyful chaos they create – and the other in a quiet room for one-on-one conversation.

There are also video chat devices that are especially suited for elders who may be less comfortable with technology. The Grandpad, for example, has a simplified operating system and is designed for those with lower eyesight. Facebook Portal is another stand-alone device that can facilitate video chats. Or if your loved one is already familiar with a particular platform, like Facebook, it might be easier for them to use the included video-chat feature than to learn a whole new platform.

Remember that for someone who didn’t grow up with today’s tech, it can be easier to answer a video call than to figure out how to place one.

2. Help them maintain wellness routines even if you can’t make it to therapy sessions

Listen to music! Try Spotify which has endless choices for music lovers as well as dozens of educational programming including an endless supply of Ted Talks. Another option is Pandora, which has stations for every taste, from showtunes to comedy. For the nostalgic, there are even 21 different kinds of oldies stations. 

If you’re limiting visits to out-of-home therapists, there are safe, home health routines to adopt. Try light therapy with the BEACON40™, to enhance cognitive function and maintain brain health. These lamps deliver nurturing light that fades into the background while your loved ones go about their ordinary routines.

Schedules are extremely important. You can encourage your loved one to maintain a routine that helps establish healthier sleeping and eating habits by weaving yourself into their schedule. A quick call or text at a predictable bedtime or mealtime is excellent. 

Think about meals and help with menu planning. Consider a delivery service for groceries or weekly takeout delivery. These are services you can arrange from your own phone. If your loved one is shopping, ask them to consider taking advantage of the early morning hours set aside for those most at risk. The store will be sanitized, the shelves will be stocked, and the crowds will be reduced.

3. Minimize stress

Encourage your loved ones to limit the time they’re spending watching potentially panic-inducing news cycles. Five to ten minutes a day is enough—or promise them you’ll give them important updates when you talk to them every day so they don’t have to worry they’re missing anything important. Think of other news you can talk about so it’s not just the pandemic all the time.

Pick a movie that you can both watch remotely, and then you can share your thoughts. Or check out your local library’s downloadable audio collection and listen to the same audiobook so you can discuss it.

Tell them not to fret over the small stuff. It’s OK if they can’t make it to their regular hairstylist or barber. Tell them funny stories from the internet of people working at home with needy dogs and annoyed cats, or business calls interrupted by toddlers, so they see we’re all in the same boat. Help them sort through upcoming appointments: which can be canceled? Which can be shifted to virtual visits? 

If your loved one is part of a faith community, help them find ways to stay connected for normalcy and comfort. All sorts of services are streaming. Help them find one that’s right for them. 

Above all, be there to listen. Fears and worries sometimes need to be heard more than they need to be addressed. Reassure, but don’t minimize. In these ways, you can be there for your loved one even when you’re separated.