The holidays typically are a time when we go out of our way to connect with family and friends, and nurture relationships with holiday visits. So how can we create a meaningful holiday connection, when most of the year has been so isolating—especially for older adults?
Victoria Tyryshkin, Dementia Specialist at Seniors At Home’s Center for Dementia Care, says that for many older adults, connecting over the phone is key.
“Most of my clients prefer to chat on the phone—even though many have been exposed to newer technology, the phone is what they are most comfortable using,” says Victoria.
For all of us, and especially for those living with memory loss, regular communication with others is critical to well-being. Victoria recommends that, whether you are traveling or quarantining at home during the holidays this year, all families should make a plan for how they will connect with their older loved ones.
Below are Victoria’s tips to make communication more exciting and meaningful while on the phone.
- Ask them to share some of their favorite family memories or traditions.
- Build a family tree together. Many apps can help you keep track, but include them in the process and see if they have pictures of events or people that they can send to you.
- Offer to share some fun facts or do easy trivia questions. If you know what their interests are, concentrate on the related topics.
- Listen to music, books on tape, or podcasts over the phone together. Then chat about it afterward.
- Sing! Research shows that music can wake up positive emotions and memories in your loved ones, even those with advanced dementia. Singing together can be a very successful way to keep communication going—and it’s fun!
- Play easy games such as memory exercises or intellectual games. A couple of examples are:
- FAVORITE: learn more about your loved one by asking what their favorites are. For example, what are their favorite food, animals, vacation place, etc.? You can take it to the next level by talking about the experiences connected to their favorite items. It is a good memory exercise too.
- NAME 10: use alphabet letters to ask for 10 words that start with the letter or name certain category items, names, animals, etc.
You can use these ideas or be creative and prepare your own topics for conversations. Even if your loved one has dementia and cannot recall much from your conversation or the activity, it is still quality time that you have spent together.
Victoria points out that it is important to make sure you adapt to your loved one’s communication limitations. Use a moderate voice tone when speaking to someone with dementia, or supply your loved one with an amplifier for their phone, if they are hard of hearing.
Connection and communication are important all of the time, but taking a few moments to make your holiday connection even more meaningful will make an impact during these isolating times.
If you or someone you know needs assistance, Seniors At Home is here to help. Please call our Bay Area Critical Help Line at 415-449-3700
Seniors At Home services are funded by fees for services and by donations for those who cannot afford the full cost of care for these critical services.