How to Care for and Bond with a Senior Over Long Distance

Families are often separated by long distances. It can make caregiving and family bonding more challenging. Here are a few tips to make both easier.

A woman and her dog sitting on a couch and video chatting.

Caregiving for a senior loved one can be equal parts rewarding and challenging. For the 7 million adults caring for a family member who lives more than an hour away, the distance makes the challenges more pronounced. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, long-distance family caregivers are more likely to suffer from worry, guilt, and feelings of helplessness.

These feelings, and the stress they carry, can be attributed to an inability to be present in their aging parent’s home. While the telephone and email can help close the distance between you and a senior loved one, both have limitations. Fortunately, technology has made it easier to build bonds across the miles.

Video chat platforms, such as Skype and Zoom, make it possible to connect in more meaningful ways. They are easy to set up and access on a device like an iPad. As a caregiver, virtual connections allow you to visually assess how your senior loved one is feeling. You can look for signs of a fever or weight loss.

Families can also use video chat services in other ways. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

4 Ways to Use Video Chat to Bond with a Senior

  1. Play games virtually: Nope, we’re not talking about playing Fortnite and other popular virtual games. Instead, you can use a social network like Houseparty to play games together across the miles. Favorites for many families include Heads Up! and Trivia. You can each provide your own snacks to enjoy during your time online together. The camaraderie can be especially welcome for a senior stuck indoors because of mobility challenges or bad weather.
  2. Host celebrations: When grandparents live far away and aren’t able to travel, they might feel left out of important milestones in a grandchild’s life. Using a video service, you can enjoy parties together. Purchase and wrap gifts for family members to open when everyone is online. The same holds true for treats. For example, order cupcakes or a small birthday cake for both parties to snack on during your virtual party.
  3. Enjoy religious studies: While many churches and synagogues stream weekly services, older adults and families might be missing the personal interaction they are accustomed to enjoying. For many, that includes Sunday school or Bible study groups. This Women’s Ministry Toolbox has tips you might find useful for getting started.
  4. Read stories: Kids usually love books. They may enjoy being read to or reading to an adult, especially a grandparent. Why not make a habit of including a senior loved one in story time virtually? To make it easier, borrow or purchase two copies of the same children’s book. Most libraries have digital copies you can check out electronically, too.

These are just a few ideas for your family to explore. Once you get started, loved ones will probably come up with other ways to bond virtually.

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