Staying connected is extremely important. Isolation and loneliness are not just sad situations. They have been shown to increase the likelihood of dementia, depression, and heart disease in older adults. Even early death.
As a family caregiver, you may be struggling to find ways to have meaningful interactions. Especially if the person you care for has dementia. Below are some ideas to boost connection. Some require technology. Others do not.
- Video calls. Video calls top the list in terms of reducing isolation and loneliness. Studies show that video chatting results in half the depression experienced by those who use only email, social networks, or instant messaging.
- Old-fashioned snail mail. Your relative’s generation is used to writing and receiving letters. Consider buying postcards (flowers, baseball stars, etc.) to make it easy to pop a note in the mail. Unlike phone calls, cards can be displayed as a visual reminder of love sent and received.
- Telephone calls with an activity. Consider doing the day’s crossword puzzle together. Or agree to read a book together or watch a show you can both discuss.
- Explore reminiscence activities. Begin with casual questions now and then about the past. (Tell me about your wedding day. Your first job …). Even if you’ve heard the stories before, encourage more detail. Check out the StoryCorps Connect project at the American Folk Life Center of the Library of Congress. This new program enables a family member to record and store a 40-minute interview using video conferencing technology.
Consider a telephone check-in service. Many people are volunteering to call isolated seniors. They have been trained to be good listeners and to spot signs of trouble. Check the local senior center to see if they have a phone check-in program. Or contact Covia Social Calls. This free service provides nationwide telephone check-ins by trained volunteers.