It’s the holiday season. The time for gathering with family, passing down beloved traditions and creating new ones together. Like everything else, however, the holidays will look a little different for 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic requires all of us to stop and examine our holiday plans to determine whether we will be putting others, particularly older family members, at risk.
According to the CDC, “the risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk.” What does this mean for celebrating with aging loved ones? For many people, it is difficult to imagine celebrating the holidays without parents or grandparents present. The safest option for higher-risk individuals is to avoid gathering in person entirely, but if you are planning to spend time with older family members during the holidays, here are a few things to take into consideration.
There are many ways to celebrate the holidays and not all of them require gathering in person. It’s important to be mindful of older family members with underlying health conditions. A few conditions considered particularly high-risk are diabetes, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, obesity, chronic kidney disease on dialysis, liver disease and conditions that compromise the immune system.
If older family members are at high risk for developing complications related to COVID-19, there are ways to make the holidays special without gathering in person. Thanks to modern technology, it’s easier than ever to connect with family members virtually. Does Grandma have a famous cookie recipe that she makes every year? Set up a video call where she can talk the grandkids (or the grown-ups!) through making the cookies themselves.
If you are debating whether to gather in person with older family members, you should also consider your own exposure to the virus. Do you work in an environment where you interact with a large number of people? Have you been attending large gatherings or gatherings where social distancing is not observed? If so, consider whether you are able to avoid contact with people outside of your household for 14 days before the gathering as recommended by the CDC.
Travel is also an important factor. Does visiting your older family members require traveling by airplane? The CDC advises that “travel can increase the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Finally, consider whether you are living in a high-risk area. Traveling from an area with a high positivity rate may put you at a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19.
If you are going to gather in person, particularly if there are going to be older family members present, there are things you can to do make the gathering as safe as possible. According to the CDC, it is best to keep your gatherings outdoors, but if you are inside, try to avoid poorly ventilated spaces. Open windows if you can. Encourage guests to remain six feet apart at all times and avoid physical contact, including hugs and handshakes. Whether indoors or outdoors, it is best practice to encourage all guests to wear masks when not eating or drinking. It is also a good idea to avoid potluck-style meals. Instead, ask guests to bring their own food.
However you decide to celebrate this year, remember to stay focused on what’s most important. If you won’t be together in person, show family members that you are thinking of them with a handwritten note. Reminisce together about your most beloved family tradition over the phone or send a thoughtful gift. Be sure to take and share plenty of photos. Email or text photos to grandparents of the kids putting ornaments on the tree, opening gifts or singing along to their favorite holiday film. A little creativity goes a long way, and there are many ways to keep everyone in on the action.
If your loved one is spending the holidays in an assisted living facility this year, make sure it is a place where they will feel a strong sense of community. Advent Christian Village is a faith-based community where neighbors truly care for one another and your loved one can age with meaning and purpose. Contact us today to learn more about what life could look like for your parent in one of our assisted living communities.