We all live busy lives and on the never-ending list of things to get through each day - household chores, work emails, getting the kids to school, cooking dinner - some things can drop off.
Sadly, one of those things is often keeping in touch with our elderly relatives or family friends.
If, like me, you always feel a pang of guilt when you remember how long it's been since you've given a grandparent a text or call, you're not alone.
Sarah Bate, a former nurse and operations manager of retirement village operator Metlifecare, often sees older family members fall through the cracks.
She's put together five simple and time-efficient tips for checking in on older family and friends, to make sure we keep our loved ones in our lives.
Keep a contact roster
Setting aside a sufficient amount of time each week, or as regularly as you can, to call or visit an older loved one is really important. Getting in touch at least two or three times a week is ideal – even a text or email can make a huge difference. A great idea many families use is a contact roster, with designated family members taking turns keeping in touch. Having scheduled catch-ups gives older loved ones something to look forward to as well.
Actively listen to what they have to say
Older people often drop clues about what is bothering them, so actively listening and asking questions will allow you to keep tabs on their wellbeing, as they won't always tell you outright if something is amiss.
Ask about when they last caught up with a friend for a cup of tea, or joined in with their village or community’s social events, as this can help indicate if they’re feeling okay. When you give them a call, take notice if they sound reserved over the phone and if you observe a change in behaviour make sure you go and visit.
Share what’s going on in your life
Everyone loves to be kept in the loop with what’s going on, especially when it comes to family. Got important life updates, achievements, new shows that you’re currently watching? Share them! Having regular chats and sharing your own news helps to keep older family members involved in your life and activities too.
Technology is on your side
Written cards and letters are popular with the older generation, as they like to know that a family member has taken the time to write to them. However, if time is not on your side, texts, phone calls or even video calls (if your loved one is tech-savvy) are great. Being able to chat over video and have face-to-face contact can make a big difference too, as you can watch out for emotional cues that may suggest they need a helping hand. Better still, take the time to teach your loved one how to send an email, use a computer to read the news and do their shopping, or use Skype to keep in contact.
Little gestures can really mean a lot
It’s the little things that count, like sending flowers just to let your loved ones know that you’re thinking about them. These days, you can order just about anything online and gift baskets or food deliveries can make a lovely surprise for your loved one. Just remember, it’s the thought that counts and small gestures can mean the world.
You can find further helpful advice and a range of activities for seniors on Metlifecare's website.