Staying close to mom and dad as they age can seem a lot more difficult than anticipated. Daily responsibilities, prior commitments, travel plans, and many other obstacles stand in the way. However, engaging with your loved ones will keep you connected, remove feelings of loneliness, enhance your relationship, and my even improve the senior’s health.
Experts have studied the link between loneliness and health among seniors, especially when a senior lives alone and cannot get outside very often. However, it is not just solitude that may contribute to an aging parent’s decline in health. Researchers say a lot of health issues can be attributed to being socially removed, which is why it is so important to consider your aging loved one’s well being the next time you want to cancel your visit.
Luckily, there are five easy ways to make sure you keep in touch with mom and dad.
1. Electronic scheduling.
Putting together a unified family calendar can make organizing a visit or managing responsibilities much easier, especially when you are trying to coordinate taking care of your loved one from afar. Toss in multiple family members and you have yourself a time-consuming project. Consider a Google Calendar to keep track of everything from family visits to doctor’s appointments to family vacations. It is easy to use and anyone with a Gmail or Google account is able to see and utilize the calendar.
2. Family meetings and events.
This sounds simple enough, but do not forget your senior loved ones when planning holidays, family get-togethers, and even family meetings. Nothing makes mom and dad happier than visiting with the entire family or enjoying a fall afternoon on the porch with the grandkids. And when discussing retirement options, make sure your parents or loved ones are part of the conversation. If you do not live nearby, one great idea is to recruit a group of friends and family nearby who can check in on your loved one or invite him or her to a family barbeque every once in a while.
3. Smartphone apps.
If you are addicted to your cell phone (come on, who isn’t?) there are plenty of apps to choose from to help keep track of your senior loved one’s appointments, medications, to do lists, and more. Caregiver’s Touch organizes essential information for your loved one like birthdate, blood type, social security number, etc. It also has a useful calendar and medication management tools. CareZone is a free app that logs all of your loved one’s care information, like a shareable task list, journal, medication tracking, and schedules. Mobile apps may be the simple trick it takes to get your other siblings or family members involved.
4. Letters and photos (no, not email!)
One thoughtful way to stay connected with your aging loved ones is to send them photos and letters. It will help them feel like they are a part of the events happening in your life, as well as give them something to look forward to receiving. Remember, your mom and dad lived in the age of snail mail, so it will mean more to them to receive a letter than a quickly written email.
5. Video chats.
More and more seniors are becoming tech-savvy. Take advantage of this opportunity and teach your loved one how to use FaceTime, Skype, or a similar program so when you talk to them to you will be able to see each other!