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How To Avoid “Return To Sender”

I have always been a big postcard sender and a recent vacation was no exception! Watching me write the cards, one of the friends with whom I was traveling, a woman in her 80\’s, mentioned how sad it is that she\’s lost contact with many of her friends over the past several years. She said she doesn\’t know if her friends are sick, have passed away, or moved, and she doesn\’t know how to find out.

Two of the most common reasons she hasn\’t heard from them are 1) physical or cognitive issues have made it impossible for her friends to communicate; and 2) her friends moved and didn’t tell her. Sadly, that’s particularly common when a person is unhappy about the move. Unfortunately, when later they do want to communicate, too often the contact information is lost.

It\’s easier now to locate old friends through the internet but that\’s not always possible, especially if the friend has moved into a senior community or nursing home and no longer has an address or phone in their own name. If your aging parent is about to make a move, you can help them avoid losing contact by placing the address book and/or holiday card list with other important papers and moving those separately.

Ideally, after the move, your elderly parent can and will contact their friends on their own. If not, however, you may want to do it for them. With so much to think about when helping an aging parent make a move, this may not seem all that important. However, the support of friends can be critical to making the transition easier for your elderly parent, thus making it easier for the family as well. This is true both in the short and the long term.

Contacting your aging parent\’s friends doesn\’t have to be time consuming. It can be anything from sending out “new address” postcards (Avery© makes sheets of postcards that you can print out on your computer) to sending out one or more updates a year, such as when there are major changes or at the holidays to setting up a website. By putting the names and addresses in the computer, you can just print out address labels whenever you want to do a mailing. And the updates don’t even have to be individualized. For example, you can send a letter to your aging parent\’s social group such as their Rotary Club, their church/synagogue or the senior center and ask that it be posted.

I had a friend with whom I worked over 30 years ago. Over the years, our correspondence had settled into annual holiday letters. Several years ago, I received a holiday letter – not from my friend but from her niece. She reported that her aunt had suffered a stroke and was now living with her in Texas. She also said that, while her aunt could no longer write herself, she was mentally alert and would love to hear from friends. I sent cards every 3-4 months and received brief updates from her niece about twice a year. Then, several months ago, I received a final email telling of my friend\’s passing, adding how much our cards had meant to her aunt.

I was pleased how much my cards meant to my friend. I often think about how much her niece\’s updates meant to me.

© Copyright AgeWiseLiving™ 2010 You can find information about how to talk with your aging loved ones in “The Ultimate Caregiver’s Success System by going to www.AgeWiseLiving.com. While there, sign up for Barbara’s free weekly newsletter. You can also contact Barbara by calling toll-free (877) AGE-WISE. Barbara E. Friesner is the country’s leading Generational Coach and expert on issues affecting seniors and their families. She is an adjunct professor at Cornell University.

Barbara E. Friesner Generational Coach

Barbara Friesner is the country's leading Generational Coach and an expert on issues affecting Seniors and their families. She has been interviewed for Advising Boomers magazine, featured on NY1 TV's Focus on Seniors and Coping with Caregiving on wsRadio. She has also been quoted in newspapers and magazines across the country and her articles have been published in the CAPSule, the Children of Aging Parent's newsletter.

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