Connecting With Loved Ones in Care

Connecting With Loved Ones in Care: Making the Most of Visits and Virtual Communication

Loneliness is one of the silent plagues of old age. Everyone talks about the issues with physical decline, the need to find activities and hobbies after retirement so as to stay busy, and even to make sure that elderly people are eating properly – appetite declines which leads older folk to stop cooking for themselves, which in turn causes cognitive issues, poor health and other problems – but few people talk about the debilitating effects of being lonely.

And it can still be a problem, even when the elderly relative is living in sheltered accommodation or in a residential care home. There is no guarantee that staff and other residents will go out of their way to talk to a newcomer, especially one who is maybe a little shy and thus comes across as being a little standoffish. How can you make sure that your loved one does not feel lonely in their new care home?

Visit Them

The easiest way to stave off loneliness in your elderly relative is to visit them yourself, as often as you are able to. A quick stop on your way home from work to say hello and ask them how they’re doing is great two or three times a week, but also make the time for a longer visit in your free time, when you can sit over a cup of tea or a meal, catching up with all the latest, asking for advice and even making plans for days out and family holidays. If you can, encourage other family to visit too, or bring them with you from time to time, so your loved one feels as though he or she is still firmly in the heart of the family, loved and valued by all. 

Text and WhatsApp Them 

Even the most luddite of older folks these days are au fait with mobile phones and texting. Add them to family WhatsApp groups, send cheery little texts when you can – jokes, comments on the weather, little updates and queries – and this can, again, help them to feel connected to the outside world. Even the best care homes – such as these Eastleigh care homes in North Devon – can feel distanced from the ‘real’ world and this sort of small connection is a great way for your relative to enjoy the best of both worlds, rather than feel not quite right in either. 

Video Call with Them 

If you can, get your elderly relative a tablet computer or a laptop (assuming they don’t already have one!) on which you can hold family video calls. On these occasions, you can get everyone on the call: your relative in their care home; the child that is away at university; the other child who refuses to come out of their room; and even other relatives from other countries – and you can all have a family reunion of sorts. It’s not quite as good as in-person meet-ups but they are easy to arrange, comfortable for everyone and very low cost, making them a very handy substitute. 

Encourage Friendships 

Finally, encourage your relative to treat their move to the care home as a new beginning, rather than the top of a slippery slope. If they can make friends with other residents – even one good friend can make all the difference – their stay in the care home will be transformed into something joyful and fun.

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