Here are some ways to keep in touch with friends and family while social distancing.

Special Note: Yesterday PD experts published commentary in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease focused on why it’s so important to help people with the disease stay active and connected while staying home. Read the article online and come back to get our practical tips for connecting with others from home.

Right now, people all over the world are “social distancing” in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. In this time of intentional isolation, we are being asked as good citizens to avoid direct contact with others, remain 6 feet apart and limit our ventures outside of our homes.

However, not being able to talk to our loved ones can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety or stress, which can potentially exacerbate Parkinson’s symptoms. It is more important than ever to stay connected with our family and friends during times of uncertainty. But how do we do this if we’re confined to our homes?

Fortunately, advances in technology have enabled most of us to stay connected with our loved ones online in varying degrees. Thanks to free video chat platforms like FaceTime, Google Duo, Skype, Zoom, What’sApp and Facebook Messenger — it’s easier than ever to stay connected with our favorite people.

Here’s how to video chat with your friends and family

For us technologically challenged individuals who struggle to figure out new apps and social media platforms, there are websites devoted to breaking down the instructions for video-chatting in a way that’s easy to understand.

  • If you have an Android smart phone, for instance, here’s how to use the Google Duo video chat function.
  • If iPhones are more your style, here’s how to use the FaceTime video chat function.
  • If you prefer to use your computer to make video calls, check out this great ‘How-To’ article from wikihow that offers instructions for making video calls on Macs or PCs.
  • It may take a few minutes to set something up to video chat with folks, but it is well worth the effort. A November 2018 study from Oregon Health & Science University, published in Science Daily found that people who used video chat functions are less likely to experience depressive symptoms.

    Researchers compared four different types of online communication technologies – video chat, email, social networks and instant messaging – used by people 60 and older and then gauged their symptoms of depression based on survey responses two years later.

    The study found that people who used video chat functions such as Skype and FaceTime had almost half the estimated probability of depressive symptoms compared with older adults who did not use any communication technologies.

    Here’s how to meet other people with common interests

    If your access to personal connection is more through group activities or sports – or if you have just always wondered what it’s like to get involved in groups – there are a ton of resources, clubs and teams out there to get involved with virtually. This could be a great time to start following online hobby groups.

    It can be overwhelming if you haven’t explored online groups before, so here are a couple of options to help get you started.

    Facebook Groups: The most informal but robust place to find any sort of group you can imagine is Facebook. Here, you can join as many groups as you wish. One suggestion would be to plug the words “Parkinson’s support groups” in the Facebook search bar. It will pull up a list of online support groups for people with Parkinson’s.

    Online Forums: From fishing to knitting to watching cat videos, you can find a dedicated forum online for any passion you might have. These standalone forums often go deeper than Facebook into whatever subject you choose. Just google your interest and add the word “forum” in the search, and you will have thousands of links to choose from.

    If you’re looking for Parkinson’s-specific online groups, here are a couple to consider:
  • NeuroTalk has a robust Parkinson’s disease community, and it’s free to join!
  • Team Grant is a free online exercise community for people with Parkinson’s.
  • We shouldn’t underestimate the value of human connection, especially during a crisis. Even if we can’t interact with our family, friends or coworkers face to face, it’s important to reach out to the people we care so much about. Besides, connecting with our loved ones online is a wonderful way to help pass the time until we can be together again.