A frame of an older man smiling and talking on a telephone is surrounded by open sky and other frames of a card with hearts on it, an email being printed out, a paper airplane with a heart flying toward the man, and a smiling woman on the other line of the telephone.

Things to Do When You Can’t Visit Loved Ones

We visited Daddy often when he was in a nursing facility. No matter how often that was, it never really felt like enough. Life happens, work gets busy, schedules overflow, and other family responsibilities can sometimes take a front seat. It’s so hard for both parties when a person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and a relative or friend can’t visit as often as they’d like. There are things you can do, though, to ease the ache for everyone.

1. Bring the comforts of home

We tried to make things as familiar as possible in Daddy’s room. We hung lots of photos of family members. His clothes he was used to wearing were hung in the closet. We left a plush blanket that belonged to him in his room. We decorated his room for holidays and seasons. We left a few knick-knacks there that were familiar. We also left snacks for him.

Facility policy may override some of these things, but any familiarity will help make the transition easier while letting them keep a connection to home.

2. Make phone calls

This is a great way to keep in touch if your loved one is still able to maneuver a phone on their own or with the help of the nursing facility staff. Your loved ones would be so happy to hear your voice over the phone.

Daddy could not use his cell phone and had language deficits at the point when we moved him into the nursing facility. The nurse staff was great though, and we knew they were just a call away if we wanted to send a message or check in. This gave us peace of mind from a distance.

3. Send letters and cards

Everyone loves getting mail. Dropping some photos, a letter, a card, or a child’s drawing in the mail is such a simple thing to do even if you are hundreds of miles apart.

Daddy adored drawings and letters that his granddaughter sent him. Sending mail will help you feel connected, and will let your loved one know that you’re thinking of them. Even if their condition is advanced, a simple gesture such as this would still brighten their day. The pay off is so much greater than the effort.

4. Send electronic mail

If you can't send letters by mail, there's email. I’ve seen several local nursing homes advertising their email services lately. I also know that many hospitals use a similar system.

Even if someone doesn’t have his or her own device or access to the internet or email, you can email the person by filling out a form online. You can specify a person’s name and room number and compose a message in the body of the form. Facility staff members print out these emails daily and hand them out to residents. This is almost as great as receiving snail mail, and it’s faster and free.

5. Recruit other familiar faces

If something hinders you from visiting, you can always ask someone you trust to go check-in. Multiple visitors showing up at different times of the day or different days of the week can give you the assurance that the facility is meeting your expectations.

Daddy had visits from several family members and enjoyed time outside by the koi pond with them. Even when Daddy couldn’t recall names, he recalled faces and knew “his people” when he saw them. It was obvious by his demeanor and reaction. He so enjoyed spending time with his family.

Showing love from any distance

These are but just a few suggestions of how to stay connected from a distance. The condition and cognition of the person with dementia may determine how interactive or reciprocal the connection will be.

However, any connection or effort will, at the very least, spark moments of happiness in their lives. Knowing they have moments of happiness will certainly give you moments of peace and comfort in return.

Share in the comments how you stay connected with your loved ones from a distance.

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