Sending a parent, relative, or loved one to a nursing home is never an easy decision. While it may be best in terms of round-the-clock care, the new living situation can quickly make you and your relative feel disconnected from one another. To help you strengthen the bond with a loved one in a nursing home, we’ve rounded up the best ideas and advice.
Set up a calling schedule with your family.
Not everyone has the time to call their parent or great aunt every day. But if you set up a calling schedule, your loved one will receive calls on a regular basis. This reduces potential miscommunication among your immediate family (in terms of who called and when). And if someone, like your sister, accidentally calls on a day that isn’t designated as hers, it’s simply a bonus!
To set up a calling schedule, ask your family members whether they would like to be included on the call list and which day they would like to have. (Tip: Get the grandkids and great nieces and nephews involved, too!)
Invest in a digital photo frame or video caller.
Before you shy away from technology because it seems too difficult, take a breath! These days, video calling systems and digital photo frames are easy to set up. Once you place the device on a bedside table, it requires no further set up or maintenance.
We like the Echo Show (Buy from Amazon, $249.99) for this reason. It’s an investment, but anyone with the Alexa app (available for free to download to your smartphone) can start a video call. The person who owns the Echo Show must simply say, “Alexa, answer!” or press the green “answer” button to accept a video call. Better yet, the Echo Show will follow the speaker’s voice, so your relative doesn’t have to turn the screen to face him or her. (For more help, check out this guide on setting up an Echo Show for a loved one.)
If the Echo Show seems too complicated and you need something very simple, try a digital photo frame instead. The Monster Smart Home Digital Photo Frame (Buy from Amazon, $169.99) is an excellent investment because it’s so easy to set up. Quickly upload photos from your smartphone to the device using a free, downloadable app. Once you plug the Monster Frame in and turn it on, it will display pictures all day long for your loved one to enjoy. Plus, you can change the photos any time you like from your phone.
Regularly send mail.
There’s something so personal about receiving a physical gift or card in the mail! It adds a special touch to any treat. So, make it a habit to send your parent or relative a little something every other week, whether it’s a care package or a simple “thinking of you” card. Spread the word to your family members, too. Anyone who doesn’t have time to squeeze in a regular phone call can send a card once a month!
Jog memories with music.
Never underestimate the power of music! A growing body of research demonstrates music’s ability to bring back back memories and sharpen brain function. For instance, 2009 research from the University of California, Davis, showed that certain regions of our brain link familiar music to memories and emotion. And a study from 2019, conducted by University of Utah researchers, found that music with personal meaning for the listener helped activate certain parts of the brain in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients that were inactive. This in turn caused whole regions of the brain to start communicating that previously had not.
The next time you see your loved one, play some tunes! (Or play tunes over the phone or during a video call.) You never know which memories you’ll activate, and that shared joy will strengthen the bond between you and your loved one.
Plan something special each time you visit.
When you do have the chance to visit someone in a nursing home, try your best to make the experience special. Bring a grandchild along, take your relative for a stroll around the property, or bring a fun, simple game. Those special moments will make the visit memorable, which will give your loved one something to talk about with friends. Having conversation starters is important — they help your loved one feel more connected to the other residents, and they can sharpen memory.
Keep in mind that It’s never too late to feel more connected. For more tips on communicating with loved ones, check out this guide on important questions to ask your aging parent.
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