Staying in touch with an ill family member


Staying in touch with an ill family member

When a family member is ill, there’s lots of reasons why we can’t be there as much as we’d like to be – maybe they’re too poorly for visitors, perhaps they’re being treated far away, or it could be that public transport doesn’t coincide with hospital visiting hours. Of course, Covid’s arrival has thrown another spanner in the works – we’ve lived through lockdowns and faced restrictions on who we can spend time with, completely throwing our normal visiting routines out of the window!

Not being able to see loved ones can have a big effect on us, more than just missing them. We may feel anxious about when we will be able to see them next. We might experience feelings of guilt that we can’t be there for them or those caring for them in person, helping them out with things like shopping or cooking. We can even feel selfish about passing up previous opportunities to spend time with them, and regret what we’ve done in the past.

It’s understandable to feel this way – it’s hard for both them and us to be apart physically, and to not share the things with them that we would do normally. So, what can we do to feel more connected with our loved ones when we can’t be there in person?


One huge positive is that this is the age of video calls, emails and instant messaging and it’s easy to use these in personal, fun and interesting ways. Here are some ideas of how to feel even more connected using technology:

  • Play a game; try a quiz, cards or even noughts and crosses.
  • Watch a film, TV show or sport at the same time as one another and discuss afterwards.
  • Eat a meal together, virtually – try to eat the same food from a favourite family or online recipe (why not try and see who made the best version?) or just each order your favourite take away and eat it whilst on a video call together.
  • If the person is not very active or unable to speak, you could read to them or play music to them, share photos and memories with them.
  • Take them out on a virtual walk with you! Go out walking, video call them and give them a virtual tour of your neighbourhood or seasonal attractions if they can’t get out (the local pumpkin patch, your favourite park, local bluebell woods or Christmas lights).
  • Fancy dress roulette; if your loved one is at home, each have some random themes written on pieces of paper in a bowl/hat container. Pick one out for each other, then you have 5 minutes to come up with a costume, using only things you find in your room/around the house!
  • Online book club – or even if you don’t discuss the book, reading the same thing at the same time (or picking a special album or even creating a Spotify playlist to share) can make you feel connected.
  • Learn a new language using an app, then practice speaking it together in a video call.
  • Check out a virtual exhibition or museum tour together.
  • Record funny messages, videos and stories to send to each other.

Other connections

Don’t worry if you or your loved one don’t have access to technology (or you’re not very confident with it!), there’s plenty of other ways you can feel connected to one another. One way to do this is think about the environment you’re in and what similarities there might be for you to both focus on – you might decide to watch the sunrise or sunset at the same time or spend some time moon and star gazing, as it can be comforting to know that you’re both seeing the same thing under the same sky. You could even do this while you’re on the phone if you wanted to, but you don’t have to speak or message to feel that connection.

  • You could think about other things around you that mean something to you both, whether that’s seeing a certain type of bird, a particular type of car, or even hearing rainfall. Whenever you see or hear the things that remind you of them, send a loving thought their way and ask them to do the same for you – if your family member is in a hospital/hospice or has a similar view each day, try picking colours to spot or listen out for certain phrases or sayings that you’ve both used in the past.
  • You might like to have matching items that you both use, whether it’s a mug, perfume, t-shirt or some friendship jewellery. You might even want to swap items so that you wear each other’s clothes, or you might buy something especially that you can wear to remind you of each other.
  • You could dress a favourite teddy bear or doll like them, or even make your own puppet version of them to make them laugh.
  • Make a photo album or collage and send them a copy so you have one each.
  • Write them a letter, or send a care package.
  • If you live near each other, take the same walking route (so you can pick out specific points to write clues about) and do a treasure hunt.
  • Pop by and wave to them through the window!

Think of yourself, too

Those are some ideas to get you started, but you can pick anything that is meaningful to you both and easy to take part in. The thing that is likely to mean the most to your ill loved one though is knowing that you’re taking care of yourself – if you’re really struggling with being away from them do reach out for support, whether it be from other family, friends or through our online service.

Hope Support Services

Overross House
Ross Park

UK Registered Charity 1135680

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