Your gesture will not only ensure that your loved one has enough provisions to live well, but they’ll appreciate that you were thinking of them – this can be hugely uplifting for a person who is shielding or struggling with social distancing. If you’d like to bake for your grandparents, parents, or even friends, there are some great recipes over on BBC Good Food.
I made sure my grandparents were getting fresh air.
While your loved one may not be comfortable or able to go for daily walks, it’s still important that they get fresh air. Studies have shown time and time again that fresh air increases the amount of oxygen flow to the brain which increases cognitive function and helps the brain heal. Encourage your elderly loved one to open all their windows (make sure they wrap up warm first!) for at least 5 minutes a day to blow away the cobwebs and give their brain a bit of a refresh.
Luckily, my grandparents love going on their daily walks, and living near a forest, they’re certainly not short of selection. But others have not been so lucky. In more urban areas, the walks can be quite limited, and because of the larger populations, they’re usually crowded and harder to social distance. With the government’s advice still instructing us to stay local, many may be bored or anxious about walking in crowded areas.
If this is the case, try and schedule early morning or late evening walks with them, especially now that we’re moving into spring and the days are starting to lengthen. Offer to accompany them if they’re feeling nervous – just remember to maintain social distancing.
I make social contact a daily occurrence.
The younger generations are used to being in constant communication with each other as we harness technology to keep in touch. Your elderly may not have the tech capabilities to use video call facilities or even text so unless your parent is supported by care, there could be days or weeks where they don’t speak to another person. Loneliness is a silent killer so you’ll need to take additional steps to ensure your parent is getting enough social contact. Call them every day, make a habit of sitting down at the same time with a cup of tea each and having a chat. It will be the highlight of their day. Go one step further and encourage your other family members to do the same.
If you’re finding it hard to think of things to talk about, what with so little going on in our lives right now, try mixing it up with weekly virtual games. My family and I have been taking it in turns to host a quiz via Facebook Messenger during each lockdown, each week coming up with a new theme. We announce the theme at the start of the week so everyone has a chance to revise the topic if they do not know much about it. This could also be a good way to give your elderly parents something to do throughout the week, as they can read up on a topic, and then plan a quiz when it is their turn.
You may run out of theme ideas pretty quickly, so here’s a few out-of-the-box ones that my family and I have done:
Find photos of your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. from when they were younger (e.g., school photos, teenage years) and get the younger family members to guess who’s who.
Play the introduction of a song, and everyone has to guess what it is before the singer starts.
Try school subjects, like History, English, Biology, find some old exam papers from a year or so ago and get everyone to see if they can answer correctly.
Recipes – take traditional/popular recipes of favourite meals, read out the ingredients, and see if everyone can guess what the recipe is for.
If quizzes aren’t your thing, you can also try virtual PowerPoint night (make a PowerPoint on the most random topic you can think of) or games that can be played over video call, like charades.
I always try to keep my grandparents busy.
Mental health is just as important as physical health and your loved one may be struggling to keep their spirits up during the long, dark winter nights. Make sure they have plenty of activities to keep them busy – send them jigsaws, puzzle books, knitting supplies, CDs, books and any other hobby that can keep their mind focused and their hands busy.
My sister and I recently bought our grandparents colour by numbers sets, which they’re extremely happy with. They’ve told us that they’ve been spending their afternoons painting while listening to music and sipping on cups of tea! Activities such as this allow them to be creative and they can reminisce about when they would do these activities while they were younger.
Most importantly, I try to provide reassurance.
This can be a scary and lonely time for the elderly. Remind them frequently that better days are coming and that the vaccinations are now providing us with a very real end goal. Make future plans for when you can see each other once again – visiting their favourite restaurant, going on holidays, having BBQs, birthday parties and christmases together. Having something to look forward to will reassure them that this is a temporary situation.