A Very COVID Holiday Season: How to safely celebrate with an aging loved one during a pandemic

Nicole M. Clagett Image
Monday, November 9, 2020

It has been months since many of us have seen extended family.

For me, it's been more than a year!

Many of us long to check in on aging parents, to see old friends from back home, to simply get into that holiday spirit. We want to bring back a glimmer of a sense of normalcy after being in the pandemic for nearly seven months now. The idea of Thanksgiving often conjures up pictures of big happy reunions, but this year how safe is it to make that a reality?

Each holiday is special and important, but holidays need to look different this year. We have learned a lot about the spread of COVID-19 since March 2020.

We know it can easily spread from one person to another during traditional holiday activities where we gather for shared meals or rituals. No matter the holiday, we want it to be a safe one for you and your family.

Keep in mind that anytime you gather with people you do not live with, the risk of infection increases for everyone.

If you do plan to get together with friends and loved ones, especially those who are most vulnerable, here are some ways to do it more safely:

  • Agree on some ground rules in the weeks leading up to your feast. To be really safe, you would try to quarantine for two weeks before the day.
  • Host outdoor activities rather than indoor activities as much as possible. If hosting an outdoor event is not possible, and you choose to host an indoor event, avoid crowded, poorly ventilated, or fully enclosed indoor spaces.
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather.
  • Host activities with only people from your local area as much as possible.
  • Limit numbers of attendees as much as possible.
  • Provide updated information to your guests about any COVID-19 safety guidelines and steps in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Provide or encourage attendees to bring supplies to help you and others stay healthy. For example, extra masks (do not share or swap with others), hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and tissues.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people 65 years and older are at higher risk for getting a severe case of COVID-19 and about 80% of death in the U.S. from COVID-19 have been of people in this age group. In addition, the CDC reports that people aged 85 and older face the greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

If you have decided to celebrate a different kind of holiday season this year, here are a few ideas to make it a special celebration:

1. Share secret recipes. If your relatives haven't yet passed down their most beloved family recipes, now may be the perfect time to do so. This creates new and fun ways to celebrate Thanksgiving during COVID-19. Maybe you will finally figure out how to make that sausage stuffing!

2. Cook together via video chat. Have a video call during which you can cook together. Grandparents can log in and show you how to cook or prepare their favorite family recipes.

3. Eat together via video chat. Consider eating Thanksgiving dinner with your children's grandparents via a video chat session. Place your computer or mobile device in a spot where your relatives can easily see everyone at the table.

4. Become more personal. Sounds contradictory doesn't it? Staying at home to avoid COVID-19 has led many people to discover new hobbies to pass the time while maintaining social distance. Instead of giving gift cards this year, purchase something more meaningful that aligns with hobbies and interests.

5. Drop off meals using contactless delivery. Prepare your relatives' favorite meals and treats, then drop them off on their front porches without handing them off directly. If you live farther away or in another state, order their favorite meals from a restaurant in their local area and arrange to have them delivered by a third-party delivery service using contactless delivery.

There is no doubt that 2020 has tested our resiliency. If we are creative, we can certainly make the holiday season special and perhaps will include some of these new experiences into our holiday traditions in the future.

If you are caregiving for a loved one and would like to get connected with others in our community who are walking the same path, join ABC11's Caregivers Corner moderated by Nicole Clagett. The group has 1000 people supporting one another and sharing wonderful information and resources daily. More helpful tips about this topic can be found on ABC11's Caregivers Corner section.