Father’s Day is approaching. If your dad is in an assisted living or nursing facility, showing your love is a challenge due to the regulations regarding visitors during the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are a few tips for making his day special:
1. Visits? Yes, Maybe! Just in the past couple of weeks, communities have started to open up for family visits. Many are designating an outdoor area specifically for visitations with all necessary safety precautions. One of the Brookdale communities near me has two areas set up on their property where families can meet with residents safely. A glass partition keeps them separated. Atria is implementing “contactless” meeting spaces for families to visit residents in person with appropriate PPE and physical distance and separation.
If your dad is in a community that is not allowing COVID sensitive visits yet, Father’s Day is a great time to advocate for changes to the policy. As long as the visit is outdoors with a limited number of people, social distancing, and masks, it should be feasible within current guidelines.
2. Send a Care Package. You send care packages to your kids at camp. For Father’s Day, send one to your dad. You may already be dropping things off intermittently, but make it special for the occasion. Get a box and fill it with meaningful items. Greeting cards from family and friends, stationery with pre-addressed and stamped envelopes so he can write back, magazines, photos, Sudoku or crossword books, and of course, favorite foods.
If your dad has dementia, send photos of yourself, your siblings and him when you were younger. He may not recognize photos you send of your family today. What was his profession? If he worked at a desk job, send him yellow writing pads and pencils, a calculator, or other associated work items. Did he have a dog? Find a book of dog photos. What were his hobbies? Try to locate picture books for him to help engage his memory.
3. Music Is Huge! You may not be able to visit your father in person, but you can send him music. Studies have shown that music is deeply rooted in our conscious and unconscious brains. As powerful as music is to all of us, it becomes even more important if the functioning of the brain is deteriorating, as occurs in dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other types of cognitive loss. Music can awaken the brain and with it, the rich trove of memories that are associated with familiar songs or beloved pieces.
If you have some time right now, dig out that old iPod, buy a pair of headphones, then make a playlist of your parent’s favorite tunes. If your dad is 85, he probably grew up listening to Hank Williams, Frank Sinatra, and singers like Patti Page. Have fun with this! What year was he 16? 20? What year did he have you? Choose hit music from those special times. Your gift of music will keep on long after you have visited.
Remember, whether you are a daughter or granddaughter, and regardless of whether or not you can visit your father, ryour caring is a gift. So many older adults have no one to worry about them. Your dad is lucky to have you. The best thing you can do is stay healthy yourself so that you can continue to be there for him and for all those who love you.
Sarah Ordover is a senior living expert with a particular specialization in dementia care. Sarah sits on the City of Los Angeles Task Force for Alzheimer’s Los Angeles and volunteers as a facilitator and public speaker for the organization. She holds CSA and CDC certifications in aging and dementia care and authors “The Senior Living Insider” blog. As the owner of Assisted Living Locators, Los Angeles, a no-cost senior living placement service, Ordover helps families tackle the confusing subject of eldercare honestly and with compassion. Ordover attended American University and New York University. She lives in Los Angeles.
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