February 11th, 2011 at 5:48 am
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Creating time well spent across the miles

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

Many adult children and grandchildren of older adults do not live near one another. When an older adult is less able to travel or communicate, keeping the connection going may take some special planning.

Since I faced a similar challenge, I try to find ways to help keep those living more than an few hours away from an older adult involved on a level that works for everyone. My mom was a very independent woman and for many years after my dad passed away, she would drive from Massachusetts to Ohio. We took short trips together where we both lived and to the west coast to visit family. Then there was the year, in the late 1990’s, when she took a bus to Ohio after spending time with a friend in upper New York State. She evidently did not hear the announcement for her bus so she missed it. Thankfully, an hour later, she arrived on the next bus but I did not know that ahead of time. What was most perplexing was that she did not realize there was a problem.

At that point I knew, unless someone came with her, my mother would never be traveling to my home again. I went to see her more often but I missed the time we spent together in Ohio. She knew my friends, went to church with me, helped out at a United Way event, and with some of my projects. We enjoyed spending time traveling to different spots in Ohio, went to Niagara Falls and Toronto on a shopping trip and enjoyed outings with a few of my close friends and their mothers. Those were cherished memories and it now became time to find other ways to stay connected.

Since my mom had a hearing loss, lengthy phone conversations were sometimes a challenge. I started dropping her postcards with a short note so we could talk about what I wrote when I called. When she was in rehab, I checked with the staff and was able to fax her inspirational notes. At Christmas several years in a row, I helped create a short annual letter for her cards. My sister took care of making the address labels since she lived nearby but the letter was something I wanted to do. We did the note when I was visiting, then I had them copied and mailed to her so she could include one with each card. Just something little, but it was important to me.

Each family situation is unique and one family put a fax machine in their mother’s home and then took turns faxing short letters in larger print along with photographs of the family when the private caregiver was there. The caregiver took pictures of their outings and kept the family posted on her activities. The volunteers from an older gentleman’s church took turns picking him up for a weekly club meeting then would help him use the phone to place a surprise call to a family member living out of town. One grandson knew his grandmother missed not being able to work in her flower garden any longer. Once a month he had fresh flowers, already arranged in a vase, delivered to her apartment.

Usually an idea will come to you by just reflecting on a person’s previous interests then adapting it to the current circumstances. For additional suggestions on enhancing visits, refer to Creating Time Well Spent.

“Can miles truly separate you from friends….If you want to be with someone you love, aren’t you already there?” Richard Bach

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

4 Comments to “Creating time well spent across the miles”

  1. Joe

    Great ideas, Kathy. These are good examples of how families took the time to think about what is meaningful to their relatives and found creative ways to make it happen.

    Just a note: the link at the end of the article doesn’t seem to be working.

  2. Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP


    Thank you for adding a very important suggestion. It is such a gift to be able to get a person’s story and thoughts. Many will be more comfortable using a familiar piece of equipment and having some space to process what they might want to share.

    Take care,

  3. Joan Chadbourne

    What lovely and creative ideas. Thanks for your message.
    Another idea is to give them an easy to operate old fashion tape machine. Ask then to talk to you on tape and you respond same way. You might send a note asking them to tell you stories from their life’s best moments or any question that lingers. The tape gives some distance, time to think, and then the stories are in recorded form.

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