Connecting with people in care facilities or who live alone is both vital and problematic.
“One of the most unfortunate things about the pandemic is that it’s taken away our usual ways of interacting with each other and sharing community,” said Blake Garmon, M.D., primary care physician, at Geisinger 65 Forward, in Shamokin Dam.
One option is to call a nursing facility and ask if it’s possible to see loved ones through a window or if the facility has other visiting accommodations such as video chat availability, said Lacey Diltz, community programs specialist at Geisinger 65 Forward, in Shamokin Dam.
“While it may not sound like much to us,” she said, “it means the world to someone who has been isolated for months.”
While technology allows a “next best thing” approach to in-person visits, it’s also already a struggle for many seniors to figure out, said Matt Groff, behavioral health therapist, UPMC, in the Susquehanna Region. One good solution is to have care facilities set up educational programs to teach seniors how to plug in to programs like Zoom and Face Time—but that requires staff availability that, with COVID and nursing shortages, would be hard to find.
“Nursing facilities are in a very difficult spot because the technology piece and the staffing is very difficult to do,” Groff said. “So then we go back to basics. We go back to writing letters to one another. We go back to making a Christmas gift that is sentimental—a photo album or something like that—and then we mail it to that person.”
Don’t overlook the joy of a simple, handwritten holiday card, too.
“I still think getting old-fashioned Christmas cards is a big blessing for us, me and my wife,” Garmon said. “That’s something we still enjoy sending and receiving each year.”
Visiting a loved one who lives alone is a bit easier, at least in terms of not having to follow a facility’s regulations. Just keep in mind CDC guidelines of masking and social distancing.
“Maybe the kids can’t get close to Grandma, but maybe family members can come over and socially distance each other,” Groff said. “Maybe just stand at the door and talk on the porch and make a surprise meal stop.”
Older couples who miss seeing friends and family can use this time to do something memorable together, Diltz said.
“The gift of time allows us to make memories that can be talked about for years to come,” she said. “If you’re staying at home with your loved one, pick up a new hobby. Do puzzles together, take virtual dance lessons, and (if possible) stay connected with those far away by utilizing technology.”
n Cindy O. Herman lives in Snyder County. Email comments to her at CindyOHerman@gmail.com