Caregiving is challenging enough on its own, never mind the extra mental, physical and emotional toll when needing to restrict or full-on isolate from your loved one during the current Covid pandemic.
It’s never been more important to manage your thoughts and responses than now. The best approach is to try to take a mental step back and ask yourself different questions in order to be better equipped going forward, with the information and resources you’ll need to help you better manage and navigate through what is, no doubt, the most challenging experience of your life.
Looking to alternative ways to provide the care and companionship your elderly loved one deserves, while providing you with a bit more peace of mind, leads to adopting technologies that will keep you better connected. No technology will replace the direct, personal contact you want, but it can get close to the next, best thing.
The technology that would work best for you and your loved one is going to be dependent on the facts around your loved ones’ condition. What is their overall state of mind? What types of technology are they already comfortable with?
Live Voice Only or Video?
For seniors who are experiencing a decrease in cognitive decline, a video call through Zoom, Skype, etc. may be confusing to them, while talking to you over the phone – a universal way of communication they’ll be familiar with, would be a better option.
Of course, many seniors who aren’t experiencing cognitive challenges have become more “tech savvy” over time, and regularly communicate with family and friends by audio-video means. I witnessed an elderly gentleman reading a story to his grandchildren over Skype – a wonderful way to keep the generations connected!
Getting the Technology Set Up
If you or your loved one are unsure of setting up accounts to let the technology help you get and stay connected, ask those in your own “bubble” to assist. If your loved one is in lock-down within a care facility setting, ask staff what protocols need to be followed, and who there could assist with getting your loved one set up at their end.
Be mindful that valuables have an unfortunate tendency to “walk away” in care settings (thus the reason they encourage them to be left at home), so creative solutions to minimize disappearance or damage to something like a tablet or laptop are in order.
For example, check with staff to see if it’s possible to have a dedicated device shared amongst care residents’ families for video calls. If this is practical, perhaps it could be kept under lock and key with staff when not in use.
Recorded Video or Audio?
While not connecting in real time, recording a short video or audio piece is helpful in letting your loved one know you’re thinking of them. With those seniors with decreased cognition, a recording of familiar faces and voices may prompt memories of their loved ones. Depending on their level of cognitive decline however, the success of using this type of technology will come down to how it is presented to them. Using words and concepts from longer-term memory is often useful, as it is typically more accessible (versus short-term memory) and therefore, familiar.
Caring Remotely by Computer
For your not-so-tech-savvy, elderly loved ones with a computer who are living independently, but currently are self-quarantining, there is software that allows you to remotely access should they have any questions or need your guidance in navigating on-line activities such as setting up paying their bills, reviewing their bank statements, etc. While on the phone with them, you can also remotely help them with any internal computer issues they might be struggling with.
This will give you a bit more peace of mind that these kinds of details are set up properly, and will build up your loved one’s confidence in knowing these matters are attended to and have your support if they need further help.
There’s an App for That!
There are a number of apps that are designed to ensure your loved one is taking their medications on time, as well as other activities that can be scheduled out for your notification. There are also a number of scheduling apps that can also keep you up-to-date with all manner of caregiving activities such as medical results, reminder of phone appointments with healthcare professionals and, just as importantly, reminders for your OWN self-care!
Smart home devices are helpful to seniors by doing away with the need to type in questions – particularly useful for those with issues with their eyesight or arthritis in their hands. These virtual assistants can also be set up to give your elderly loved ones verbal reminders.
There are plenty of ways for your loved one to ward off boredom through accessing a variety of entertainment on-line including games, audio books, or even subscriptions to media services providing movies and favourite TV shows from their past.
For the more active senior, there are all manner of fitness videos geared to their age group to be found on YouTube, along with instructional or educational videos about virtually any subject matter. Many people, seniors included, have taught themselves “how to” on hobbies and other topics of interest. It’s a great way to pass the time, and is an excellent way to keep mind and body stimulated and active.
It’s easy to get caught up in the very real challenges you’re facing – personally as well as in your role of caregiver - during this Covid pandemic, and focusing on what technology resources you can use versus what you can’t do, will in its own way, give you just a little bit more support and peace of mind for both you and your loved one.
© Nancy Glover | Aging With Grace www.AgingwithGrace.ca
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Nancy Glover, a healthy aging advocate, mentors extraordinary women and men who have stepped into the challenging role of caring for their elderly spouse or parent by managing their well-being in the later stages of life. Blending first-hand expertise with practical step by step systems to support the needs, goals, and desires of the elderly spouse or parent, Nancy helps caregivers maneuver the complex and often challenging role with supportive advocacy and resources that equally focus on everyone’s well-being. Learn more about her at www.agingwithgrace.ca and sign up to receive timely information and strategies to empower caregivers and families in transition.
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