Doctors: With virus limiting holiday travel, it's important to stay in touch with elderly loved ones

Doctors: With virus limiting holiday travel, it's important to stay in touch with elderly loved ones
Posted at 1:57 PM, Nov 19, 2020

With the CDC's recommendation that Americans not travel to see family members for Thanksgiving next week, many won't be able to see their relatives this holiday season. However, doctors say it's as important as ever to keep in touch with elderly relatives.

One easy way to stay in touch with older relatives is through video chat. And while elderly family members may not have much experience with it, Dr. Donald Mack says seniors have been more willing to try new technologies amid the pandemic.

"Most of them have really bought into the importance of staying safe, and they're willing to try this new technology," said Mack, a geriatrician at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center. "I used to think some of them would just say no."

It's totally normal to have hiccups. Mack says it's all about having patience and giving family members a hand.

If a loved one has a caregiver, see if they are able to help set up the calls. Once that happens, take a look at the environment your loved one finds themselves in.

"If the senior is able to do that safely is say, 'Hey can you show me how you can get out of that chair and get something across the room?' Or, 'show me how your plants are doing,'" Mack said. "Sometimes, you can check in on them, and also check in on their function that way, too."

Mack says callers should also check in on their loved ones' grooming — something they wouldn't otherwise be able to see in a regular phone call.

Doctors even say seniors might be willing to have difficult conversations over video chat, as long as their cognitive health is OK.

Callers can also talk about what their loved ones need and set up services like grocery and medicine delivery if they're in another city.

If video chatting becomes too much of an obstacle, doctors say it's still OK to resort to a regular phone call. They say the most important thing is to stay in touch.