At the time of this writing, the COVID-19 virus is raging across the US. There have been over 15 million reported cases of persons infected. It’s also the holiday season. The pandemic has cast a pall over the holiday celebrations and has deeply affected caregivers.

The AARP published a survey in November 2020 titled COVID 19’s Impact On Family Caregivers Holiday Plans. The survey found that three quarters (76%) believe there is at least some risk of COVID-19 exposure if they are to visit with others. The concern is high, with about eight in ten worried about exposure for themselves or their loved one. Most will be making changes to their typical holiday traditions this year (64%), with more than three quarters (77%) saying the pandemic will impact their plans at least to some extent.

The CDC recommends that the holiday be celebrated with the family and friends who share a residence. This makes it challenging to include older adults and persons with disabilities that reside outside the shared home. Not only will they be missed, but they could feel left out and forgotten based on their understanding of the pandemic.

Christmas traditions may need to be revised. What are the essential aspects and activities of your holiday celebrations? Are there any foods or recipes that make the holiday festive? Make the dish, get dry ice, and ship it. Favor and Uber Eats are services that deliver from local restaurants. Send them a holiday delectable. Christmas cookies are part of many family’s traditions. Baking these treats and then sending them to your loved one helps promote holiday cheer. Cookie bakers could each send a delicious snack to the older adult. Older adults hail from a generation that wrote letters and sent out Christmas cards. Sending frequent Christmas cards could make the older adult’s holiday brighter, especially if they have short term memory loss. Attending church services together is a meaningful part of the holidays for some families. Pick a televised service and watch it together, sharing comments and songs over the telephone. Singing Christmas Carols together is an activity that includes family members. If your loved one lives in a facility, find out if it is possible to use Zoom or Facetime to participate in scheduled holiday activities. Zoom, Facetime, Google Hangouts are all options to include the older adult into family festivities.

AARP survey data indicated that six in ten (62%) plan to gather with family in some form, and eight in ten caregivers who do not live with the person they care for (80%) will visit them this holiday season. Precautions will be taken, such as limiting hugs, limiting gatherings’ size, and wearing masks. Given this expectation, the CDC has the following suggestions:

  • Have conversations with the host ahead of time to understand expectations for celebrating together.
  • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, utensils, and condiment packets.
  • Wear a mask indoors and outdoors.
  • Avoid shouting or singing.
  • Stay home if you are sick or have been near someone who thinks they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • It’s okay if you decide to stay home and remain apart from others.

Are you hosting? Here are some recommendations from the CDC:

  • Limit the number of guests.
  • Have a small, outdoor celebration with family and friends who live in your community, weather-permitting.
  • Have extra unused masks available for your guests and encourage everyone to wear them inside and outside.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
  • If celebrating indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible. You can use a window fan in one of the open windows to blow air out of the window. This will pull fresh air in through the other open windows.
  • Have a separate space for guests to wash their hands or provide hand sanitizer.
  • Keep background music volume low, so guests don’t need to shout.

Please note the CDC reminds us that the safest possible way to celebrate the holidays is with your household. Hopefully, next year families can join together in celebration of the holidays. Long-distance caregiving is hard. Should you or a loved one need support and service coordination, please contact us. Our services are provided by experienced, resource-savvy, and compassionate care managers. We are here for you.

Wishing you and your family a Happy Holiday and the Brightest of New Years’!