Essential Conversations with Dr. Amy: How to connect while physically apart from your aging parent

These are certainly strange and stressful times we are living in right now! None of us could have anticipated that things would change so quickly in our lives as we focus on containing the spread of COVID-19. For those who have relatives in retirement living, it may be very anxiety provoking not to be able to visit in-person. It’s important that we find ways to cope during these times and continue to provide support to aging relatives who are doing their part by physical distancing.

Tip #1 – Regular phone and video calling

One of the best ways to cope emotionally while being physically separated from loved ones is to increase our communication from afar. By staying in touch, we will be able to monitor how our parent is doing and be reassured that they are safe and well-cared for.

If possible, have video chats together. It’s great to stay in touch by phone, but there is also an increased sense of connection when we are able to see the person we are talking with. Additionally, it provides the opportunity to visually check in and verify that our aging relative is doing well. You don’t have to stay on calls for a long time, but having more frequent communication can help both of you feel better. You might consider having dinner together over video or even watching tv or movies together. It isn’t the same as being in the same room, but it does help everyone feel more connected.

Tip #2 – Find creative ways to show you care

If you are able to drop off care packages at your parent’s residence, it can provide welcome treats that are customized to the tastes and interests of your parent and show them how much you care—making you feel good, too.

If it’s possible to be able to wave from the parking lot while your mom or dad waves from their balcony, you’ll be amazed at how it can also lift everyone’s spirits. You might even be fortunate enough to find a window you can chat or wave through. Speak with staff at your parent’s residence to see what is possible. The goal is to find creative ways to connect with each other while we are staying safe.

I know you may feel concerned for the wellbeing of your loved one right now due to physical distancing, but please also make sure you are getting the emotional connection and support you need while at home. Being in a state of anxiety or loneliness is likely to increase your worry about your parent and make it hard to assess the situation realistically. When you reach out for information and comfort from others, you will be better able to provide the connection and comfort your parent may need.