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Staying Connected with Family Using Micro-Events

One of the hardest things about social distancing is that many of us have to stay away from our aging parents, disrupting the comforting routine of our visits. And so we call them or video chat with them instead, but it’s not quite the same as being there. This is especially challenging for families who are battling Alzheimer’s disease.


What’s the best substitute for a periodic visit? Instead of replacing the large event of Sunday brunch, for example, with a large virtual event (like an all-family videochat), consider replacing it with a dozen micro-events. Phone calls and texting are perfect, of course, for reminding your parents of your presence throughout the day. Here are some other ideas.

  • Play a game like Scrabble together on your phones. It’s one big game, but it comes one move at a time, so it only requires short bursts of attention. But since each move is part of a larger game, it will stitch together the hours when you’re not together. Word games are also especially good for brain health.
  • Share memories. Send old photos via your phone or in the mail. Send new photos too so they can see friendly faces like grandchildren, pets or even growing spring gardens. 
  • Share an experience, even if not in real time. Agree to watch the same movie, listen to the same podcast, or read the same book. Not only can you discuss it together later, but you’ll think of each other while you’re doing it. Watch your parent’s favorite show even if it’s not quite to your taste.
  • Talk about the weather. There’s nothing wrong with small-talk. Step outside and let the same sun—or moon—shine down on both of you.
  • Bird watch. If your parent sees a new bird, they’ll think of you and look forward to telling you about it. It will make you present to them even though you’re far away.

Instead of replacing the large event of Sunday brunch with a large virtual event, consider replacing it with a dozen micro-events.

Short conversations or connections can be easier for a person who has dementia, because they are less tiring and there’s less pressure to remember things and sustain a conversation. They also lessen the burden on you if the connection feels a bit one-sided. Don’t underestimate the power of a steady stream of micro-contacts to keep you present to each other even over a distance.