How to Support a Loved One When You Can’t Be There

In this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic, our lives have been altered by quarantines, travel restrictions, a widespread shutdown of businesses and social distancing. Although these lifestyle changes can benefit society by decreasing the spread of the coronavirus, they are disruptive and difficult to adapt to in daily life, especially if you’re separated from a loved one.

Not being able to see a loved one face-to-face can cause anxiety, particularly if they are ill or don’t have the ability to care for themselves. For residents of senior or assisted living communities, precautionary measures have been set in place to prevent the spread of the virus. If you are separated from a loved one during this time, here are some tips for how you can support them — even from afar.

Make sure the senior living community can easily contact you

For the well-being of your loved one and your own peace of mind, make sure the staff on call at the residence can easily contact you and is equipped with updated emergency contact information, including an email address. That way, if anything happens, or if your loved one is struggling, they can reach out to you. Many communities are sending out regular emails with updates regarding visiting restrictions and infection control procedures.

Set up a video chat or phone call

If your loved one has access to a phone or desktop, schedule regular calls with them to get updates on how they are feeling and what they have been up to.

Tips for phone or video calls:

  • Avoid centering your conversations around the anxiety-inducing current events. Instead, use your time to talk about uplifting topics.
  • Schedule regular check-in times. By allowing your loved one to keep a routine, they will be more expectant of your call and focused on your conversation.
  • Play a game. Picking a simple game like 20 Questions or doing a crossword puzzle together can help stimulate their mind.

Set up a Facebook group

Does your loved one have a large support group of family and friends? Instead of overwhelming the living center and your loved one with multiple calls from multiple people, consider setting up a Facebook group. That way, you can give your loved one continued support at their fingertips.

Write a letter

It’s probably been a while since you wrote a letter, but now is the time to pick up the old habit. Not only will your loved one be excited to receive something in the mail, but they will also enjoy reading a message written by hand. This is a simple but personal way that you can connect with your loved one even as you’re apart.

Fun tips for your letter:

  • Write out your favorite poem and tuck it into the envelope.
  • Add some stickers to brighten their mood.
  • Press one of their favorite flowers and stick it in the envelope.
  • Paint or draw them a picture of a memory you have together.
  • Include up-to-date pictures of yourself.

Send them flowers or use drop-off delivery

Although a lot of the world is shut down, some businesses have converted to pick-up and delivery to keep their business afloat. Consider sending your loved one flowers, food, balloons, or get creative with your own idea of a gift they might enjoy. Little gifts can brighten their day — or even their week!

Tips on sending your loved one a package:

  • Call the facility ahead of time to make sure you know the procedure for how packages are getting delivered to residents in their individual apartments.
  • Track your package and ask your loved one to video call you when they receive it, so you can see their reaction.
  • Send them a puzzle, crosswords, or Solitaire game so they can keep their mind active even after they receive the package.

Stay calm & learn to manage your own anxiety

If you are panicked and upset, chances are your loved one will be too. By staying calm, you help them to manage their own worries and make it a little easier for them to adjust to life apart from you. Although the situation will never be ideal or easy, you can try your best to adapt and comfort your loved one. If your family member struggles with dementia and has trouble understanding the circumstances, see our Guidelines for Communicating About the Pandemic With Family Members Living With Dementia blog.

More importantly, by staying calm, you open up the possibility to talk about positive topics — maybe a memory you have together, some of their favorite things (like music, art, a place or animal) or a program they have been listening to or watching on TV.

Don’t be afraid to reach out

In these extraordinary circumstances, Cherrywood Pointe is here to help your family, friends and community stay healthy and safe. If there is anything we can do to help your current situation, or if you have any questions we can answer, feel free to contact us.

If you or someone you know is struggling to adjust during this time or is feeling a sense of loneliness or depression, it’s important to seek help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s hotline 1-800-662-HELP (4357) puts you in touch with counseling services and other local resources.