I haven’t seen her for a year!
Covid. Shut Down. Quarantine. No Visitors.
Last March, the world started down a new path. My mother is in a retirement home about 170 miles away. Prior to that, I know I don’t see her as much as she desired. But 2020 … none at all.
But yesterday, I learned they just relaxed their guidelines so I woke up early, headed east, and took the 3 hour trek of over the hills and through the woods. And off to mother’s house (or small 500 sq foot apartment) I went.
I had to ward off the wild beasts in the woods (fellow drivers who drove crazy, work zone labyrinths, and the one 3 lane closure on 95 due to an accident). And of course, I stopped at the country tavern along the way (Cracker Barrel) where I filled my empty stomach with Parisian sweet bread (French toast) and restored my empty phone charge. I had to stop and feed my trusty heed once going there and once returning (gas at the occasional Sheetz).
The visit was limited to 2 hours. There were restrictions. But I did go.
She didn’t recognize me. She thought I was her brother. Not sure which one but I took it. We talked. I shared pictures off my iPad. She hugged the iPad when I showed the picture of my father (her husband she lost 25 years ago). We had the same conversation multiple times … but that’s okay, it meant I didn’t have to come up with new topics.
We avoided politics, mostly. But when it came up (the news was on a bit) she told me several times she shook Biden’s hand a few times. Apparently he played golf with my mother’s boss when she worked in Wilmington.
When I left, we hugged. She cried. And I solemnly exited knowing it would be a few weeks till we did it again. It was a good day. 7 hours on the road. 2 hours with mother. 1 hour stopping to eat and read.
It was a good day.
How can we continue to help? What can we do to help seniors and those in retirement homes continue to cope? Here are a few ideas I’ve collected over the past few months …
- Teach them to use social media (too late for my mother, she can’t remember how to handle the tablet or other devices she has) but do this and stay in touch with pictures and more.
- If she can’t handle social media (or even if she can) a digital photo frame is a great. I bought my mother a Nixplay (grandmother digital photo frame) where we could email pictures and they show up automatically. She misplaced it, but we tried.
- Pick a Pen Pal. Letters and cards are special, especially for that generation.
- Make sure someone contacts them daily. My sister calls mother nightly. My brother (closer to her geographically) visits regularly.
- Print out photos and put together a little memory book.
- Make sure they are fed and have the essentials. For my mother, in the assisted living wing, this isn’t an issue. But for those living alone … maybe grocery errands, take out meals, simple covered dish. Make sure they are eating and are taken care of.
- Read a book with them. It doesn’t have to be together, but read the same book. Then you can talk about it. This helps with memory too.
- Surprise them. Our church is going to adopt retirement homes and do “adopt a pet”. We are getting a variety of stuffed animals and then sending them to the retirement village so each resident will have a pet lion, tiger, puppy, armadillo, kangaroo, sloth, etc. Prayer cards added, adoption certificates, and more will be added. Imagine a pile of 50 zoo animals (each in a clear sanitized ziplock) brought to the community room.
What are you doing? What ideas have you seen done?