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Connect without technology

  • Visit through a window. Sit or stand where you can see each other and talk on the phone.

  • Create or use a ritual phrase, sound or interchange to end a visit.  For example, if you always hugged at the end of a visit, each of you cross arms with hands on opposite shoulders for a virtual hug.

  • Stick to routines.  If you visited every day in the evening, window visit, phone, or video chat at the same time.Schedule visits with other family members or friends, so a care receiver has contact spread out, not all on one day.

  • Send cards, letters, and pictures through the mail.

  • Use felt tip markers and larger-than-normal writing.

  • Send an enlarged picture and share memories about it.

  • With permission, decorate a tree or bush or post a sign which can be seen from inside.
  • Coordinate watching a show at the same time and talk over the phone, or call after the show has aired.

  • Drop off or have delivered food, flowers, packages, food treats.  ALWAYS check first. You do not want to create extra work (i.e. a silk versus living plant).

  • Learn about other difficult times the senior experienced--war times, economic problems, etc.

  • Plan topics for future contacts, such as “Tomorrow will you tell me about the day I was born?”

  • Set goals and check in, such as “Today let’s both sit outside for 10 minutes” or “This week I am going to sort through the bookshelf; will you ask me how I did?”

  • For caregivers, use calls, video and window chats for your respite. This may be a chance to take a walk, take a nap, or call someone to let off steam while the care receiver is occupied.

          Connect Using Technology

          • Have all friends and family use the same video app for simplicity.

          • As a caregiver, change your profile picture to a picture your care receiver would recognize or picture of your name.

          • Record a video message that can be replayed.

          • Experiment with virtual museum and outdoor apps.

          • Incorporate religious texts or prayers if these are part of your shared experience.

          • Exercise together.

          • Play multi-user games online.

          • Have a video chat musical recital, band, or sing-a-long.

          • Create a shared playlist of music.

          Connect with a loved one with dementia or difficulty communicating

          • Record a video message that can be replayed.  For someone with dementia, begin with “I can’t visit you today, but I was thinking about …”

          • Keep explanations about why you cannot visit in person brief.

          • Individuals who have difficulty communicating still want social contact, such as a video chat.

          • Prepare for a video chat.  Examples include having a picture and then talking about the event, having a couple of jokes,
            reading a short text and then talking about it. Short, frequent contacts are better.

          • Group chats may be confusing.  If you have a group chat, establish beforehand how you will take turns talking.

          • Turn off automatic rotation on their device.

          Connect with care receivers in skilled nursing,
          assisted living or other facility

          • Contact facility staff to find out who and how they are helping residents connect.  Many facilities have purchased tablets to pass around, arranged window visits, or have other ideas.

          • Ask if residents can receive packages, mail, or dropped off items.  Make sure someone is assigned to open packages, read letters, or display pictures if needed.

          • To limit costs, ask facility if they have public internet access for resident devices.

          Tips for new smartphone or tablet users

          • Start slowly, with only 1 or 2 apps visible on the home screen.  Add one at a time when you're ready.

          • Use single color background for home screens for less distraction.

          • Find a brightness level which is comfortable; increased brightness is often better for seniors and those with vision impairments.

          • Change display to large font or large display to see and touch better.  These options are found in the accessibility settings.

          • Disable security features of “locking”; PIN numbers, patterns, and finger recognition can be difficult to remember.

          • Set up a central place with a charging station and way to prop the device; check for glare from windows and lights.
          • Explore other accessibility features such as speech/text.

          • At the end of every video chat, remind each other to charge device.

          • Set up a regular tune-up time with your technology mentor.  This is a time to ask questions, simplify the home screen, install updates, update contacts, etc. 

          • Sanitize devices.Sit still and close.  Someone moving around can create dizziness.  Watching lips can help hearing.

          • For hearing difficulties, try speakers or headphones.

          • Enter as many contacts as possible, so you can choose who and when to answer.

          • Eliminate or decrease notifications and disable screen rotation.

          Download PDF of Stay Connected tips