How Technology Can Help Seniors and People with Dementia to Connect
One thing that has become readily apparent during the coronavirus lockdown is how reliant we are upon technology. Another fact made even more obvious is that nothing replaces good old-fashioned face-to-face contact. It’s been extremely hard for some seniors to maintain contact with their loved one, and perhaps even more challenging for those living with dementia. On the one hand, technology has been a blessing for many, but if you or your loved one suffers from a cognitive disability, sometimes technology can be a hurdle.
Zoom, FaceTime, Google Meet, and other video chat platforms have taken off during the coronavirus pandemic. And with good reason! Life simply cannot just shut down. Businesses still have to operate, and family and friends still need to be able to connect and maintain essential and healthy relationships. Although being online cannot replace a hug, many people have clung to video chats as a lifeline during these difficult days.
Whole families in separate cities and provinces eat dinner “together,” still play games such as Pictionary, tell each other stories, and even watch movies “together.” This new way of conversing has been a vital way of maintaining those good feelings that we get from connecting with other people. They’re fairly easy to use, sometimes with only minimal training required, which can often just be done by a family member or staff member of a long-term care home.
Some families are choosing to have daily ‘face-to-face’ video check-ins with their loved ones now, just to see how they’re doing and have a quick conversation to boost everyone’s spirits. One interesting idea is exercising together online, going for a walk and talk together, or even doing the same exercise program together at your own individual households.
Text messaging has been around for a long time now so most people are accustomed to conversing in this way. But has the emoji ever been more useful? We’re texting with more people and more and more often now, so short forms of text messages such as a laughing face, a thumbs-up, and a heart are as common as ‘brb’ (be right back) and ‘ikr’ (I know, right?!). Being able to keep in touch with multiple people in short and meaningful ways has never been more helpful! You can find ‘cheat sheets’ all over the internet to be able to use emojis and short forms. Printing one of these out or sharing a link with your senior members of the family can help grandparents and grandkids even speak the same ‘language!’
People Living with Dementia
Using technology definitely requires some attention and cognitive awareness and can, therefore, be tricky for some people living with dementia to navigate on their own. However, with incredibly caring staff members at long-term care facilities, more and more seniors living with dementia are seeing their family members regularly, some on an even more frequent basis than they already did if they were living at a distance! An innovative program in Florida, for example, called It’s Never Too Late, connects people living with dementia with family members and friends and allows them to engage virtually in online cognitive, social, and physical activities and discussions, very similar to our Virtual Cognitive Stimulation Sessions at the Adult Cognitive Wellness Centre.
Another benefit of technology is the ability to access virtual healthcare, as some medical practices are moving to this model in an increasing fashion due to the increased efficiency they’ve witnessed while operating this way because they had to due to the pandemic. Some seniors and their families can be ‘seen’ by a doctor faster, therefore getting early intervention when something is wrong. For people living with dementia, however, this factor may depend upon having a family member to help them, depending on how advanced the dementia is.
We hope that no matter where you and your loved ones are, and no matter their cognitive abilities, you are able to stay in touch with those that matter most to you and maintain those connections even when you cannot be together in person.