How to Help a Loved One Feel Cared for When You Can’t Visit

The coronavirus has led to care homes around the world restricting visiting for the safety of their residents. It makes sense to protect our most vulnerable, but it can leave relatives concerned about making sure their loved one in a residential care home feels remembered, loved and not isolated.

You probably rely on visiting, to show your loved one that you care. However, there are ways to help a loved one feel cared for when you can’t visit – we just need to get creative. Here are some suggestions:

1. Pick up the phone

The easiest solution is to make a telephone call to your relative in the nursing home or residential care home on a regular basis. At our care homes in Somerset and North Devon, we welcome phone calls for our residents.

Remember to speak clearly and slowly, giving plenty of opportunity for your loved one to answer.

2. Video calls

Many of our residents are already in possession of a tablet or laptop, and are confident using video call methods such as Skype and Face Time. However, if this is a new concept for your elderly relative, don’t worry.

We can help at the care home end to show your relative ‘how it’s done’. Just let us know, and we will see what we can do.

3. Send a card or a note

Many of us have forgotten the art of card and note writing. However, for our residents, this is how they have previously communicated with their friends and relatives over the years. We’ve seen the joy that lights up a face when personal mail is received.

Use the time that you would spend visiting your relative, to go old-school; sit down with a pen and paper, and write to your loved one.

Don’t expect a reply, depending on how frail they are, but do know that it will bring pleasure. If your relative is unable to read, due to sight or cognitive issues, do not worry. Our caring staff will happily share your letter with them.

4. Send in some favourite items

Sending in a care package of your loved one’s favourite items is another idea to make them feel cared for. Perhaps they’ve always enjoyed a French Fancy? Or maybe they are partial to a nice glass of Rioja? Pack up a parcel with some of their favourite treats.

5. Send some flowers

Many people have fallen out of the habit of sending flowers, as often hospitals now restrict these for infection-control reasons. However, we are happy to put flowers in vases in your loved one’s room, unless there are specific reasons not to.

Therefore, if you’d like to brighten up their day, arrange to have some blooms sent to them, by a flower delivery company such as Interflora. Every time they look at them, it will remind them that you are thinking of them.

6. Send them a framed photo

It can be really difficult for residential home residents to hold in their mind that they are remembered, especially when they can’t see you as often as they would like. However, having a framed photo of you and them, perhaps from when you were together at another time, can remind them that you do care, even if you aren’t there right now.

Our staff will always comment on a resident’s photos and draw their attention to them, reminding them of their loved ones.

7. Activities

If you are unable to visit for health and protective care reasons, then the residential or nursing home may also be restricting trips out. This can be very difficult for elderly residents, who see their occasional excursion as an opportunity to mix with others and reduce any sense of isolation.

Therefore, it can be really caring to send in some new activities for your loved one to enjoy alone or with other residents or staff. Some ideas for good activities to share include jigsaws, crossword and puzzle books, and table top games.

8. Make a video recording

Gather your family and make a video recording to send to us. Our residents love to see what the family is up to. You can tell them about your daily life, and let them see inside your home. Get children to chat away about what is important to them, as we can guarantee that this always brings a smile.

Don’t worry about the technology side of things. We can help your loved one to watch the video.

Take care, when making the video, not to chat over each other. This can make it difficult for an elderly person to follow what is happening.

Another option is to dig out the old family videos of days gone by, and see if you can compile a short montage of times to remember.

9. Remember the date

Take particular care to keep an eye on your calendar, and remember significant dates for your loved one. If they are a widow or widower, try to remember their partner’s birthday or date of death, and give them a call to say you’re thinking of them. If it is their birthday, rest assured that we will celebrate with them, but make sure you send a card and perhaps a small gift.

10. Caring by proxy

Remember that by ‘staying away’, when there is a risk of infection to vulnerable groups, this is a caring act in itself. However, we know it won’t always feel like that.

Get in touch with care home staff if you are concerned about the mental wellbeing of your loved one. We can pass on messages of care, and also reassure you that, within the home, they are not isolated from company and interaction unless necessary for their wellbeing. We are continuing to take our residents on walks in the garden, chatting in our community spaces, and adapting our activity schedule to ensure everyone feels engaged and remembered.

There are ways to show your loved one that you care even if you can’t visit. Try to pick one or two of these suggestions for each time you would normally visit.