Top 10 tips for staying connected with senior parents

Celebrating my Dad’s 75th birthday in a Zoom call during Covid19

Here are tips for staying connected with senior parents during “shelter in place”.  Some of us have parents in the same city while others live across the country.  Unless you’ve moved in with your parents to “shelter in place” you may be feeling guilt and frustration mixed with concern and sadness.

One of my closest friends is from Columbia where grandparents live with family and their culture is one of intergenerational living.  It’s not a question of where parents will live.  She grew up with her mother and grandmother. When she married her husband, he knew he was taking on the whole family.  Years later, they had two children and her grandmother passed away.  She also found herself divorcing and caring for her aging mother while working full time and caring for her two kids meant there was no way she could keep her mother at home with her.  It was a difficult decision but ultimately, she decided it would be best for her mom to go to assisted living.  Her mother was very resistant and threatened to stop speaking with her daughter. Months have gone by and while they are separated due to Covid19, her mother is happy in her new community* and my friend is relieved her mother is being well cared for.

Our society as a whole has mixed emotions around aging parents.  As a senior move manager in San Diego, assisting families when their senior parents are moving into senior living, I am involved in the conversations and feelings around this move.  When adult children say they feel bad “putting their parents” somewhere, I encourage them to reframe their thoughts.  If they are lucky enough to be able to afford it, their parents are going to a place that’s more like cruise ship living than anything else.  They are well fed.  (It’s a known secret that senior communities poach chefs from fancy restaurants.). They usually have access to cleaning and laundry service.  And, there are typically activities that help seniors stay engaged while also developing new skills and hobbies.  In fact there is more independence in senior living than maintaining a home.

*It is almost always the case that once the senior is moved into their new home and is settled, (a faster move is a benefit of working with a Senior Move Manager) most new residents and their families are relieved.

Whether your parents are living in a senior community or living home and feeling isolated, there are definitely things you can do to take advantage of this pause or as I like to say “find the silver lining” in the situation.

Here are some things you can do*:

  1. Schedule drive by visits.
  2. Organize a family Zoom call with a slideshow of photos set to music
  3. Photograph artwork and share it. Perhaps do an art project together.
  4. Do surprise calls in addition to scheduled one
  5. Prepare and record your own TedTalks
  6. Organize a family talent show.
  7. Do a vision board and photograph it
  8. Have your kids ask their grandparents a series of questions and record the answers.**
  9. Make a playlist or send a care package.
  10. Organize a family virtual games: allows you to play card games, Backgammon, Chess and even a version of Cards Against Humanity a drawing game

As I always tell my kids, we can’t change our circumstances but we can adjust our reaction.

*This list was compiled with help from San Diego senior communities and Placement professionals who help senior decide which senior living communities are best for them.

*Before my grandmother died, my mother gave her a “Grandparents Journal”.  She died before completing the journal and to this day, it is a great regret of mine.