Renewing family connections at Christmas more important than ever

Sylvia And Denise Dementia Advisory and Support Services

Sylvia Banwell’s story is one of the many tales of a year changed by COVID-19.  Sylvia’s plans for her 90th birthday celebrations were wiped out when international borders closed. Her family were planning to travel from the UK to celebrate with Sylvia in Queensland, where her sailing voyage around the world ended many years ago when she saw the allure of our coastline.

The change in restrictions mean that some families are reconnecting while others have to continue waiting. As we head towards Christmas, it’s a reminder of the importance of family connections and the need to help those isolated from their loved ones.

At Ozcare, we are honoured when families entrust us with the care and support of their relatives, because we value the relationships that are developed. Often we find one of the most valuable parts of maintaining good physical and mental wellbeing is the ability to stay connected – to family, friends and the community.

Sometimes, being a Dementia Advisor can mean stepping in where families are unable to help, as happened with Sylvia.  An avid sailor, Sylvia had enjoyed a life on the water for many years, sailing around the world with her husband before their journey brought them to their new home. For the past few years Sylvia has lived on her own, after nursing her husband through illness. Her 90th birthday in March was to be a wonderful celebration as daughter Sandy, among others, joined her from the UK.

With those plans cancelled, friends and neighbours managed to step in to celebrate.  At the same time, Sandy reached out to Ozcare via the My Aged Care website. She was concerned she would be unable to travel to see her mum and check on her needs first-hand. It was clear to Sandy that her mum was in need of some urgent practical support. She was in contact daily via a landline, but there was a lot of help that Ozcare could offer Sylvia without any family on hand to assist.

Ozcare is part of a joint effort to get Sylvia the support she needs. She is now getting help with her cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping and medical needs.

Sylvia has social support as well. I visit her every fortnight and stay in touch with Sandy via email to ensure she is going well.

Ozcare is helping many seniors in the same situation as Sylvia. Some people living with memory loss in our communities have had very little contact with loved ones this year, instead relying on phone calls.

That’s why we’re urging families to start making plans for Christmas catchups that will be crucial in the weeks ahead.  This year may require a little more creativity than usual with ways we stay in touch.

There are several ways families can renew connections in the lead up to Christmas, including:

  • Making a phone call: Often just ringing can be beneficial for someone living with memory loss. Sometimes it is difficult as they may be having trouble recalling much of the conversation or they may not say much – but it is just important to ensure they retain the skill of being able to answer a phone. It may not be two way but just staying in contact is important.
  • Making a date to visit: Residents can receive visitors. If you are concerned about coronavirus, please follow all social distancing measures. Do not visit if you feel unwell.
  • The quiet life: Noise can affect people living with dementia – it is important to include your loved ones in Christmas celebrations but be aware of the noise around them. A quiet place is always best.

Since nursing her husband through illness, Sylvia has experienced declining health.  However, with support she is again enjoying weekly choir and exercise classes.

It doesn’t take a lot to bring a smile to her face, which is our hope for all families this Christmas as they resume connections with their loved ones.  If you need help for a loved one, you can contact Ozcare on 1800 692 273.

Written by Denise Hodder, Ozcare Dementia Advisor