The holidays can be challenging for those who have loved ones in a care facility, or have loved ones taking precautions due to vulnerability. Being unable to visit can leave you feeling guilt, stress, sadness, anxiety and frustration.
While in-person visits are not possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can still brighten someone’s day. Physical restrictions don’t have to prevent you from staying close at heart and emotionally connected to loved ones.
Try These Ideas to Stay Connected with Loved Ones
With some innovative thinking, you can lift their spirits, and your own, and bring everyone a true sense of joy and closeness. Try these suggestions to stay connected with your loved ones during these pandemic times.
- Video calling helps us stay connected. Spending time together on a video call (WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom or Skype) can help to simulate that feeling of being together. Many facilities have iPads for easier viewing. Otherwise, a cellphone works just fine.
- Window visits let you wave, blow kisses and talk to loved ones on the phone while you’re outside. Handmade signs make the visits extra special. Contact the facility administrator and ask about how they can assist in facilitating window visits, video calling via an iPad or smartphone, and downloading necessary apps to make conversations work online.
- Music is uplifting. Suggest an album or playlist for your loved one to listen to and have each person play their favorite track/song when you video call or window visit. Find music that your loved one used to enjoy and use it to bring forth special memories. Music can also make your loved one want to move and dance. While talking, encourage movement, if it is safe to do so, and have fun with it. Even just watching you dance will make them smile. Don’t be inhibited!
- Singing is an antidepressant and releases oxytocin, so sing along with loved ones. Choose their favorite spiritual or Christmas songs. Don’t worry if you can’t sing well because it will still elevate your loved one’s mood and leave them feeling less anxious.
- Pictures found in old albums bring back memories. Hold them up for your loved one to see and share a special memory from the picture.
- Care packages with lotion, makeup, perfume, aftershave or nail polish can help your loved on pamper themselves or have a spa day. Set up a time to go online and discuss whether you like the smell, color or the look of that new eye shadow.
- Coffee dates create an opportunity to be present in the moment as you enjoy the delicious taste, smell and the warmth of the mug in your hand. Try making a latte or mocha and make sure your loved one has ingredients to do the same. Sit and enjoy your coffee date “together” and share what you are grateful for.
- Postcards and greeting cards sent from each family member brighten your loved one’s day. Ask them to show you their favorite card.
- Art projects are something you can try together, such as an easy crochet kit, water color or even just drawing or finger painting. You could even make a frame out of popsicle sticks that can be painted and glittered up to be used for a Christmas photograph. You could also make a mini scrapbook together. Just make sure your loved ones have enough photographs to participate with you. You can show each other your progress and this gives them some purpose and the reminder of happy memories.
- Religious traditions can be celebrated together, such as lighting candles or reciting simple prayers. You can send favorite prayers or an advent calendar and they can open it each day during your video call.
- New recipes can be tried together, if they are still in their own home. This is a fun way to see how each other’s work turned out.
- Exercising together is healthy and entertaining. Walk in place or try different yoga poses together.
- Grandchildren’s artwork, essays or poems can be shared. Seeing and reading a message in someone’s handwriting can help create a sense of personal connection and keeps them included in their loved one’s interests.
- Tell jokes to each other. Start off with a knock-knock joke. You can also try to solve a riddle together.
- Favorite shows and movies can be watched together. Coordinate a time to watch and share your reactions in real time, or pick up the phone and discuss what you liked or didn’t like after it is over.
- Book clubs can be created just for the two of you – or more. Choose a book you are both interested in and prepare questions for each week. This can get you from Thanksgiving to Christmas and provide a good distraction from the stress of the outside world.
- Fond memories can be shared, such as a job they loved, or a positive family event.
- Laugh and have fun. Be playful, tap into your loved one’s inner child or silly side.
- Bond. Use this opportunity to thank your loved one for something they have said or done for you in the past and how much it meant to you or inspired you. Share your love for that person and how much they mean to you.
- Gifts brighten anyone’s day. Some good gift ideas are anything homemade such as crafts, treats and artwork. Other ideas include:
- A weighted blanket can simulate feelings of being hugged or held when you wrap it around you or lie beneath it. Research has shown it may help with stress and insomnia.
- Plants can be uplifting and can offer sensory benefits too – whether it’s fragrant herbs and blooms, or the soft petals of a flower against your skin. Nurturing a house plant can give purpose and connection.
- A stuffed animal can be hugged and you can spray it with the perfume you normally would wear so that it smells like you.
Talk About Feelings on Being Apart
Saying goodbye can be hard. Try hugging someone from inside your bubble (for example your partner, child or pet) at the same time have your loved one from inside their bubble do the same. If this is not an option, do a simultaneous hug and imagine you're hugging one another. If you or your loved one is struggling with separation, remember to:
- Validate loved ones feelings and recognize this time apart can be difficult. It can be hard not to see the people you love and it’s okay to feel sad about it.
- Remind each other that this is not your fault. This is the best way to reduce the risk of people getting coronavirus.
- Talk to family and friends about how you’re feeling. Help redirect negative thoughts by focusing on the here and now as much as possible.
- Encourage “I” statements, such as I did …., I have …, I am …, I can …. This can empower the person to realize they still are in control of a lot of things. For example: “I have a supportive family and I can call them whenever I want and today I did just that.”
- Focus on the things they can do and encourage them to get involved in whatever activities the facility does currently offer.
Don’t forget empathy, for your loved one and yourself. It is hard to not see the people you love, especially during the holidays, and it's okay to feel sad about it. Give yourself credit for creating treasured moments of joy together.
Visit chihealth.com/behavioral to connect with a CHI Health mental health provider. We offer in-person and virtual therapy sessions with our team of licensed mental health therapists.