The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but 2020 has undoubtedly thrown us all for a loop. As COVID cases continue to spike, many families with aging relatives wonder how to manage the holiday season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults and those with medical conditions continue to be at an increased risk for severe illness. This means that many older adults may not be able to participate in traditional family holiday celebrations this season.
While holiday gatherings are usually the foundation of many holiday traditions, they also increase the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19. The CDC states that the safest way to celebrate the holidays this year is with your individual household. However, there are still ways to include aging relatives in your holiday celebration. Here are a few ways to help manage the holiday season with aging relatives.
Respect Individual Precautions
Everyone has a different approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes large families. Some family members might feel comfortable gathering, while others feel uneasy. Older adults may feel caught between wanting to see their extended family and wanting to stay healthy. Recognize that it’s okay for everyone to set their own boundaries this holiday season. Remember that decisions made are not personal; it’s the pandemic.
Deliver a Holiday Meal
Consider delivering a holiday meal to your aging relatives that can’t join the celebration. That way, they can still enjoy traditional foods and desserts. Safely prepare and package foods, then drop the food off at their front door. Families that live far away could place an order with a local restaurant or send a gourmet food package that contains traditional holiday treats.
Limiting visitors is another way to manage the holidays with aging relatives safely. This is actually extremely helpful for older adults, regardless of the pandemic. Those with dementia, hearing loss, or limited mobility can quickly become overwhelmed in a larger, loud group setting. Smaller crowds make it easier for some older adults to engage in conversation. Smaller numbers also provide more meaningful moments for everyone, as no one is competing for attention. Visit outdoors as much as possible.
Wash Hands Often & Wear a Mask
Continue to practice proper handwashing and wear a mask to protect aging relatives from potential exposure to COVID-19. Also, maintain a six-foot distance from relatives that do not live in your household. It’s easy to let down your guard when you’re around family, but even those without symptoms can still spread the virus.
Finally, use technology to stay connected to relatives that cannot travel this year. Overcome virtual fatigue by adding holiday fun to the conversation. Schedule gift-giving exchanges so that aging relatives can watch the younger generations open their gifts. Reminisce with older adults about their favorite holiday traditions and ask how that tradition began. Try a virtual game, host a holiday movie watch party, or ask someone to dress up as Santa, because we could all use more magic this holiday season.