How to keep in touch with older and isolated relatives

Coronavirus is a completely new entity for us all to be dealing with, and is affecting near enough every aspect of our lives. With social distancing, self-isolation and working from home, it is for many a very lonely time to be contending with.

And with the over 70s being encouraged to stay at home to protect themselves, it could mean long weeks or possibly even months ahead with very little contact from friends and family.

So how can we help to alleviate some of that loneliness in the older generation? The goal here is to let them know they haven’t been forgotten about in whatever way you can.

Phone them – Just like the good old days before texting, video messaging and emails came along, the humble telephone was the easiest way to speak to someone at a distance. Pick up the phone and give your loved one a call regularly to let them know you’re thinking of them.

Write them a letter – Even before the humble telephone came along, letter writing was the popular way to get a message to someone. Though letter writing these days may seem like a bit of a faff, think how happy it will make your loved one when they open up the letter and know that you have taken the time to write to them.

Create a photo book – There are a number of online businesses that offer a photo book printing service, such as Snapfish, Photobox and Vistaprint to name a few, which let you pick photos from your smartphone that can be printed into a book and sent to your loved one’s address.

Set them up with a video device – Whether your loved one is or is not tech savvy, getting them set up with an easy to use video call enabled device can be a great way to let them feel involved in an occasion they can’t physically attend, or to just be able to see those they miss. There are many different devices to consider; smartphones, Amazon Echo, tablets, Facebook Portal, Google Nest Hub; all with their advantages and disadvantages, so do your research and make sure you know how to use it fully so you can easily talk your loved one through the process of getting it up and running.

Send them food – Help out your loved one by setting them up for online food shopping, or doing the orders for them. Likewise, with food delivery apps such as Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats, help them get set up so they can order meals from their favourite restaurant or take-away, or get them a meal to be delivered from your account if you have one.

Fall technology – The chance of suffering a fall increases as we age. Knowing that a self-isolating loved one is better prepared and that help can be automatically dispatched to them should they fall, can be a great reassurance to family members. Most of these technologies can be worn on the wrist, as a pendant around the neck or clipped onto clothing and work by detecting an unexpected downward movement and raises an alert either to a call centre or to a specific person.

Send them a book for the kids – If you know a loved one will be missing the time they spend with their young grandchildren, send them some books they can periodically read to the children over the phone or via an app such as Skype.

Run errands and leave items on the doorstep for them – If you are close enough to run errands such as food shopping or medicine pick-ups that can then be left on the doorstep for them – then do what you can for them. If you are personally unable to do that, ask someone you know you can trust with this responsibility.

Stay away if you’re sick – If you are unwell, be sure to stay away from your loved one to avoid them catching your illness and making them more vulnerable.

Get them up and about – Staying active does wonders for mental health and in these times of isolation, anything to help keep the brain engaged and anxiety at bay will be a massive help in the long run. Encourage your loved one to get out in the garden if they have one and can, do simple exercises or use video call to do a family exercise routine each day together or get them cleaning around the house. Anything that will get them moving will do their overall wellbeing a world of good.

Book online deliveries of prescription medication – Helping your loved one to set up deliveries for their prescription medication will help to keep anxiety around medication to a minimum.

Carers – If you are caring for a loved one and can’t leave them to self-isolate but also can’t stay isolated with them, ensure you are keeping on top and adhering to the latest hygiene recommendations with regular handwashing such as washing your hands as soon as you arrive, using hand sanitiser and making sure your loved one uses it too.

Self-isolation can be debilitating, it can weaken the immune system and in general can create other complications. So making sure we all look after each other and especially keep our elderly relatives, friends and neighbours, feeling like they’re not completely alone in any way we can, can only be a good thing for them, for us and for society as a whole.

 COVID-19 (coronavirus) alert

Under NHS England guidance, if you have developed a high temperature or new continuous cough, please self-isolate for seven days. Click here for more information.