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Meaningful Connections

Creativity and Heart Provide Comfort to Family in Memory Care During the Holidays

In these times of COVID-19, the line of poetry by Alfred Tennyson, “He seems so near and yet so far,” takes on an agonizing fresh meaning when one considers ways to stay connected to family members in residential care facilities. It doesn’t matter how close in proximity your living spaces are, it isn’t safe during a pandemic to visit your loved ones in person. Add in the complexity of working within the constraints of dementia or Alzheimer’s and attempts to connect remotely can seem useless. We’d try anything to elicit even the most fleeting moment of recognition or comfort.  Mill View Memory Care provides professional memory care, short-term respite stays, and hospice care in a home-like community with a meaningful atmosphere for seniors living with memory loss. Yet Executive Director Angel Hunter is saddened by the toll COVID-19 precautions are having on residents and staff. “We are definitely noticing a decline in our residents because they are so confined and the constraints are so tight with respect to getting out and seeing loved ones,” Hunter laments. The connections don’t have to be lengthy. Bend resident Aleta Nissen offers a simple idea, and it’s one Hunter also recommends, “We have made big signs telling mom we love her and since she is on the third floor we call her and have her look out the window,” says Aleta. A little drive-by love goes a long way.

Our Burklo clan holds weekly Zoom calls. We take turns typing the reports of each family member in the chat box, since our patriarch, who is housed in a local retirement residence, can’t hear very well. We even managed a surprise visit from the staff to deliver his favorite cake on his birthday – complete with video documentation. Coming upon a season of special occasions, the national Alzheimer’s Association offers some suggestions for the holidays that can be adapted for safety and social distancing. Instead of joining your loved one in a facility-planned holiday activity, join them on the phone to attend. Have family present via photos on a necklace, glued to popsicle sticks or strung from colorful yarn on a walker. Instead of singing holiday songs with a group of residents, send recordings of your family singing favorite songs. Don’t forget to include a family photograph! Send a printed version of a favorite book or poem and arrange for your loved one to follow along over the phone or on a video call while you read out loud. Most importantly, consider the one or two actions you think you or your family members can take on without added holiday stress. Give yourself grace to not be perfect, just to try. That glimmer of connection – the mere thought of a slight grin at the sights, sounds, or tastes – will be well worth your beautifully imperfect attempt.

Mill View Memory Care

1290 SW Silver Lake Blvd., Bend