It was a chilly November day in Oklahoma City when Rosie and Mel’s family set out to celebrate Thanksgiving. Even though they lived in an assisted home and were surrounded by their friends, Rosie and Mel had looked forward to the holidays all year. It was the time when they usually got together as a family, told stories and made delicious food. This year, their family wanted to do what they could to protect their beloved parents and grandparents from catching the flu or Covid-19 and yet still provide them with the warmth and love of family. Last Christmas, the family had gotten together and decided to surprise Rosie and Mel with a unique Christmas gift – an iPad. After downloading an app to make sure they were all set to go, the family kept in touch using video chat technology. And now this year, grandma and grandpa were not forgotten even while the turkey was cooking. With the video zoomed in, Rosie and Mel saw the turkey roasting and all kinds of delicious food being prepared. And by the evening, the family brought all the good food for their beloved seniors to share.
Many seniors look forward to the holiday season for months with anticipation. It is the time of year they get to see their family. Receive sparkly, colorful or tasty gifts. Hear how each family member is doing. And get some good home cooked meals. In fact, year after year this may be the season that fills seniors with hope and love to get through the rest of the year. Of course, it’s important to make sure they continue to feel loved and connected throughout the rest of the year. But the magic and beauty of Thanksgiving and Christmastime touch the hearts of the elderly and children alike. What are some ways to approach holidays and yet make sure our seniors are protected and remain healthy?
A very important aspect of mental and all-around health is making sure seniors remain socially engaged. If your loved one is the resident of a senior community or assisted living home, they likely have the opportunity to socialize with others on a daily basis. Stay mentally stimulated with a Memory Care program. These retirement communities can have strict policies regarding health and safety standards. This can include mandatory Covid-19 vaccination of both residents and staff caring for them, use of masks, and limited exposure to viruses out in the general public. Find out what your elderly family’s community is doing to protect your loved ones, as well as holiday events or social opportunities provided to them.
Family. Even if your elderly family member is in a wonderful senior living situation surrounded by plenty of family, their family will still mean the world to them. Check and see what visitation possibilities are in place at their assisted living or nursing home, as these can vary daily. Perhaps it is possible to visit a loved one and bring them their favorite pie, or even a collection of what’s on the Thanksgiving menu for them to enjoy. It may also be possible for you to bring them into your home for some turkey and a toast. Keep in mind that large crowds especially indoors expose seniors to seasonal viruses and illness, so it may be best to keep it small. Perhaps plan a special Thanksgiving dinner for them ahead of the traditional big day. Ensuring everyone is vaccinated may also be beneficial. Consult with your senior’s caregivers and physicians and see what is possible.
Virtual visits. If it is not possible to visit your family in their retirement home, consider the possibility of using technology for a virtual visit experience. Ask assisted living or nursing home staff if they can assist your senior with setting up the visits. They’ll need an iPad or laptop equipped with a microphone and camera. Smart phones can work as well but can be difficult for seniors to navigate or see well with a smaller screen. Using virtual technology, you can start “visiting” regularly with them throughout the year! It’s so important for seniors to stay connected to family all year long, but especially during the holiday season.
This year, bring the love and warmth of the holiday season to your elderly relatives in the way that is safest and best for you and your loved one. Sometimes, it’s the little things you do to remember them and show love that bring the most joy. That home made apple pie. A video visit with the grandkids. Stay safe this holiday season, and share the warmth of the holiday season with your senior family members!