Like many children of aging parents during the COVID-19 shutdown, you might have assumed the role of "Superwoman," or "Superman," also known as a “caregiver.” If this is you, you’re probably dealing with children at home, a full time job, or lack of, mounting bills, household chores and staying safe. And you’re worried sick about your parent(s) in a senior living community or nursing home.
Unable to visit during these COVID-19 times, you couldn’t see how your loved one was doing. Was mom getting enough to eat? How are dad's spirits? Are they physically stable or in decline? Are they getting the attention they need?
How to Stay Connected
First, working with staff members who are on premises where the parent is. These workers can become advocates—your eyes and ears.
Almost certainly, the facility is down in staff numbers and dealing with a situation that is as new and stressful to them as it is to us all. Approaching the administrators and nurses with empathy is important.
Be patient if messages and calls are not immediately returned. These facilities are dealing with every single relative, like you, and they are overwhelmed.
Check in with Video Conferencing or Facetime on a set schedule
Using video conferencing can be an easy way to communicate with your family member, with a little help from the staff. If you’d like an update or to Facetime with your parent, see if the facility will let you set a regular schedule. That way the expectations are known on both sides.
Send Cheerful Notes & Photos
Send old-fashioned written cards and letters. This is a particularly good activity if you have children at home. You can teach them how to use envelopes and stamps. And children love to draw with markers and crayons.
As an adult, you can share in your letters how much your parent’s love and support has meant to you over the years. Maybe finally say what you have always wanted to say. And it’s always nice to recall and recount fond and fun memories.
Make a Music Mix CD
You may not be able to visit your parent in person, but you can send them their favorite music. Studies have shown that music is deeply rooted in our conscious and unconscious brains. Music can awaken the soul and with it, the rich trove of memories that are associated with familiar, beloved songs.
Use “Window Visits” Sparingly
Saying hello through a window or from a driveway can provide reassurance for your parent if he/she is cognitively alert, but it can be confusing for someone with Alzheimer's or other types of dementia.
People with cognitive impairment may be unable to process or retain the reasons you are not able to come in. Instead of being a positive experience, it can be upsetting. Before you do a drive-by visit, make sure your mom or dad has the capacity to understand why you are not coming inside.
Give Yourself a Break
It’s hard being a caregiver… a Superwoman/man in the age of COVID-19. Your caring is a gift. Many older adults have no one to worry about them. Your loved one is lucky to have you.
We can judge ourselves as not doing enough. Or maybe we feel guilty because some days we just want to hide under the covers. IT IS OK AND NORMAL.
Be gentle with yourself. Do the best you can and above all, keep remembering the love you have for your parent(s). Just be there for each other however you can and everything else will take care of itself.