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Caregivers come in many forms — it can be caring for an elderly parent, or special needs child, or a spouse. Courtesy photo
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National Family Caregivers Month — How to connect and support older loved ones

November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time when we recognize and thank family members, friends and others who have a hand in keeping our loved ones healthy and safe.

Caregivers come in many forms, whether you’re caring for an elderly parent, child with disabilities or a spouse. Being a caregiver also requires sensitivity, especially when you’re transitioning to caring for a parent.

Here are some tips to help you keep in touch with your loved one without overstepping boundaries.

Start the Conversation with Kindness

If it’s time to add technology to your caregiving toolkit, take time to honor this passage into a new phase of life. Before you download the first app, address and acknowledge the changing dynamics of the relationship in question. Not every parent feels excited about “checking in” with their child or engaging with tech as part of their well-being. As you introduce new routines, set the intention of bringing the family closer and strengthening relationships through technology. 

Put Safety First

Finding the right technology is an important step in staying confidently connected as a caretaker. Cox recently launched Homelife Care, a 24-hour medical alert system to help caregivers, families and friends support their loved ones, plus ensure their safety. 

The service recognizes that many people make up a care team, so in case of an emergency, its app notifies up to five designated contacts. Cox care agents provide on-going status updates to all emergency contacts, serving as dispatch while your team assembles and responds.

The service also includes everyday features, such as a text check-in, to help your loved one feel autonomous. The app sends a daily push notification to ascertain general well-being and forwards the response to assigned caregivers. This quick text check-in allows for daily engagement without hovering. 

Make Caregiving a Family Affair

The division of labor is critical during caregiving, for the well-being of everyone involved. Consider establishing a collaborative model of care in which each member of the care team takes a month as the main point of contact. Keep everyone in the loop with a designated group calendar and shared notes. Typically used for work collaborations, cloud-based notes apps like Google Keep or Evernote can help manage appointments and any follow ups, house shared “to-do” lists and track on-going needs. 

Engage Your Loved One

People often report feeling awkward and unsure of what to discuss with an older family member, especially when someone experiences health issues. To help your loved one open up, create a communications plan outlining five to 10 topics that will engage them and that they can share with others. Use hashtags and Google news alerts to gather information about those topics, and then choose the preferred platform (does Grandma prefer Facebook, texts or emails?) to help nurture meaningful and personalized communications.

Capture Family Stories

It’s easier than ever to document family stories with a loved one. Zoom, Google Meet and Skype, among other channels, allow you to record conversations with minimal plugins and a more relaxed interaction than with traditional recording equipment. Need a place to start? The Oral History Project, Story Corp, offers a Great Questions guide to unearth family lore and document the stories that otherwise may be lost. The bonus is recording your loved one’s facial expressions for posterity — a treasure to savor for generations to come.

For more tips and information on how to use technology for your family, visit cox.com.

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