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Virtual dining for memory care residents Chelsea Place

Thanksgiving will be Different This Year: How to Make it Special as Well!

For many of us, Thanksgiving will be very different this year. For some, it may just be a smaller group; four or five instead of fifteen. But for those with loved ones in senior care it will be a bit more challenging to connect and engage in ways you’ve grown used to in the past.

We understand these challenges, as many of us are experiencing them in our own families. The good news is that we’ve become more educated in terms of using technologies and have acclimated to things like video chat and Zoom calls. Clearly technology has been a blessing, helping us visit virtually with those we can’t be physically near right now.

With that in mind, we have gathered a few tips to help families connect with each other in ways that keep the Thanksgiving spirit alive and bring moments of joy to those special loved ones in senior living. Here they are:

  1. Send a pre-Thanksgiving “kit” to your loved one. This kit can include cards from family members, Thanksgiving crafts from the kids and even some tasty goodies, like pumpkin muffins or mom’s or dad’s favorite cookies. Sending this in advance will build some anticipation for the day itself and assure your loved one that you and the family are thinking of them.
  2. Host a virtual video call. This is easy to do these days with free and/or inexpensive apps like Facetime and Zoom. Contact the senior living community staff to let them know of your plans so that they can make sure your loved one tunes in.
  3. Have one of your younger family members open and close the call. They might start it off with a song, a prayer, a dance or sharing a special memory of the loved one. It’s a fun and relaxing way to start the call.
  4. Designate someone (preferably an adult) to be in charge of the call. They can make sure that things flow smoothly and that everyone is able to speak with as few interruptions as possible.
  5. Give each family member a moment to share. You might have them do a special “shout out” to your loved one and share an old photograph, a memory or news about a new job or milestone reached.
  6. Make plans for follow ups after Thanksgiving. Plan a follow up call within the next few days. You might also consider sending a second post-Thanksgiving package with cookies, or a small photo album with pictures of the dining table and all the relatives present. By doing so, you are keeping the connection with your loved one alive and open. Instead of feeling depressed when the call is over, they will have something to look forward to.

It is also important to make sure that your call is as free of ambient noise and unnecessary distractions as possible so that your loved one can hear each of the participants. Many families will encourage participants to raise a hand before speaking. Also look for signs that your loved one is feeling fatigued. Don’t hesitate to end the call a bit early if this happens. It is important that it be enjoyable, not tiring.

We all wish we could be with our loved ones during the holidays. And, yet, with some effort and planning you can create a Thanksgiving experience that brings loved ones together in new ways. Using technology to connect and engage is a blessing to us this holiday season. At Anthem Memory Care communities, we use it regularly to help our residents and family members connected. Let us know how we can help!

(The image for this blog is of a resident enjoying a special meal, while serenaded by a family member. Taken at Chelsea Place Memory Care in Aurora, Colorado.)