Stay Connected Always, but Especially During Social Distancing

 

Closing the distance between you and your loved one living in long term nursing, memory care, or assisted living can be challenging under the best of circumstances but is especially so in this new, socially distanced, normal we are all experiencing.

 

My 89-year-old mother, who suffers from advanced dementia, is in long term skilled care just 15-minutes from my home, in St. Louis, Missouri. Until recently, I had been visiting her daily, however, like you, I am now unable to visit in-person because of the COVID-19 crisis. On her best days, dementia-related cognitive limitations make phone calls awkward, even with assistance from the staff. And FaceTime — despite the best intentions of the care team — have been extraordinarily challenging for Mom. But she loves hearing my voice, and I know how important it is to her mental, emotional, and even physical health to hear it regularly.

 

Social distancing policies now required by state and local governments, and adopted by care centers, are our best hope for preventing the spread of the coronavirus to our immuno-vulnerable family members, but it is painfully obvious that this isolation is taking a different kind of toll on these older family members; one that I have seen with my own mother. Without our conversations and daily story-sharing, I fear she'd wither into a devastating downward spiral.

 

So I created a communications and virtual family presence workaround, involving Amazon’s Echo Dot smart speaker system, and I’d like to share that with you. 

 

This method facilitates an ease of regular, hands-free communication with loved ones, provides a means by which family members may share spirit-reviving and even life-sustaining audio content. I discovered several months ago, just how much it meant to my mother to hear me tell the stories from our family's multi-generational arc. It was so much better than the strained conversations I’d been trying to have with this lovely woman who, just a few years ago, was running a small business and making flawlessly witty conversation with her customers. But as it became clear that conversation was less a thing that she now enjoyed, and more a thing that she just joylessly labored against, this storytelling became really, REALLY important. I’d watch a relaxed smile form and her eyes glaze over, my words taking her back to a more pleasant place, and I’d just tell these stories, over and over, like a kind of life narrator. But then I realized that when I left, so would the stories. So I wrote them down and recorded them. I recorded a half-dozen funny, memorable, emotive or otherwise engaging stories, and I built them into an audio file she or a staff member could call up at will. Whether I was there or not.

 

I began to notice a different tone in her voice and a more joyful countenance when I’d visit, and now, because I cannot visit, it has become increasingly important that she can continue to hear my voice. And her music. My mother is now wheelchair-bound, but she loved to dance, back in her day. And in her day, it was Benny Goodman and Glen Miller. She still 'dances' in her chair when I play Little Brown Jug, String of Pearls, or Chatanooga Choo-Choo! In fact, research shows that the music of our lives having the most profound effect is the music we were listening to when we were between 13 and 17-years-old. So, I've discovered that it is so important for my mother's happiness that she has easy access to the music of the mid-forties. Again, she's almost 90 years old, so for someone 10 or 15-years younger, maybe the music would be Elvis or Chubby Checker, but you get the idea.

 

My own direct experience with caring for my mother has compelled me to share this idea with others in a similar situation. I’ve created a simple, effective, low-cost system that will enable you to give your loved one the same kind of comfort and remote connection to family that I have with my mother. I call it ‘Family Voice,’ and, with my help, you can implement it for your loved one within 72-hours.

 

• You’ll be able to have a hands-free conversation of any length, with your loved one. 

• You’ll be able to share an unlimited queue of stories with your loved one to play at will.

• You’ll be able to create ‘bridged’ calls with and between as many family members as you like.

• And, with an inexpensive music subscription, your love one can summon-up their favorite music whenever they like.