For many of us, the holiday season is a time of family gatherings, amazing food and cookies galore. We plan for months so the holidays are bright and festive and everyone feels included. For many seniors living in long-term care, the holidays are often a time when they get to go home for a few hours or a few days and share this special time of year with their loved ones.
This year, things may look and feel different with COVID-19. In California, citizens are being asked to limit the number of people in a gathering to three households or less, outdoors is preferable and only for two hours. So what is a family to do with a loved one living in a senior community during the holidays?
Senior friendly video chat services.
There are many inexpensive or free video chat services that many seniors can use, such as Facetime, Skype, Zoom or Google Hangout. With a little assistance, most can be added to a tablet or smartphone fairly quickly. These platforms enable face to face interactions easily and help everyone stay connected.
Another option to consider is Grandpad, which is a tablet that provides a smart, simple and safe way to connect seniors and their loved ones. The app allows seniors to make phone calls, engage in video chats, share photos and send emails.
Three ideas for having a Virtual Family Gathering
1. Family gift exchange. Simply getting together at someone’s home to do a gift exchange is no small feat during COVID. Many people want to stay home, while others may fear to fly or travel by other means, so you might be rethinking how to get everyone together safely. Consider organizing gift drop offs or shipping gifts to those further away (many retailers will gift wrap). On the appointed day, get dressed up as you would if this was in person, create a decorated “backdrop” and then have a video chat to open presents together.
2. Have a cookie exchange. The holidays just are not the same without Grandma’s gingerbread or Aunt Carol’s sugar cookies. This event is very doable during COVID. Some shipping services will pick up at your door. Once the cookies are delivered, you can host a video chat as everyone enjoys cookies, a hot beverage and shares stories of holidays long ago.
3. Classic holiday traditions. A fun multi-generational tradition is reading Christmas stories together via video chat. Everyone can download or borrow a book of their favorite stories from the local to read along with the storyteller. Grandparents can read to their grandkids or vice versa. Another fun option is use the Share Screen option on Zoom and watch a YouTube video like this one of Santa reading Twas’ the night before Christmas.
The best feature about video chats is they can happen at any time during the day. Zoom also allows you to record a chat to view at a later time.
The administrative team at The Colony is available to answer questions you may have about taking a resident out for a visit during COVID and the safety protocols once the resident returns. We are also available to help with assisting you in coordinating video chats.