Is It Okay to Visit Older Family Members During the Holidays as Coronavirus Orders Ease?

September 16, 2020

This time of year many families begin to make holiday travel plans, but coronavirus is raising questions about the risk that poses for senior loved ones. Now is the time to gather information about travel guidelines and begin conversations with older family members about what to expect this holiday season. 

COVID-19 might restrict holiday plans, but families can still find many ways to maintain beloved connections and traditions while keeping everyone as safe as possible.

How much longer will the coronavirus outbreak last?

eldery-couple-talking-on-the-swing

This is a question on everyone’s mind and, unfortunately, there’s truly no answer. We’re all waiting for a return to “normal” and, as communities begin to reopen, it’s easy to feel like the threat of COVID-19 has passed. Sadly, risks can increase as winter sets in, since outdoor gatherings become less feasible and other seasonal viruses become active again. 

Experts agree that seniors will continue to run a higher risk of developing life-threatening complications from COVID-19 because of their advanced age and prevalence of underlying health conditions. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends weighing the risks of all individuals involved before deciding about in-person interactions this holiday season.

Can I make an exception for holiday travel?

After all this time apart and adherence to COVID-19 best practices, families may feel it’s safe to gather again for special dates like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah. This is a personal choice and it’s up to each individual to weigh their risks. 

State and local policies do change regarding COVID-19. So, at the end of the day, the choice to travel or expand a social circle will depend on personal calculations. Each individual must weigh their own risks and assess their own comfort levels. 

Many states restrict incoming visitors and may require a coronavirus test followed by a 14-day quarantine. This could keep families separated for the entirety of their vacation, unable to see relatives they intended to visit. Be sure to check the regulations of travel destinations in advance as regulations fluctuate based on coronavirus case counts. Also read up on the CDC’s questions to ask before flying, driving, or taking public transportation.

Above all, remember that all it takes to cause an outbreak is one asymptomatic person at a family gathering. That child or adult who shows no signs of COVID-19 could infect an elderly parent, grandparent, and other loved ones. Experts now believe the pandemic is largely fueled by people who feel fine and don’t realize they’re spreading the virus to others. 

For families who can’t avoid being near an elderly loved one, health authorities recommend proper use of protective measures including masks, social distancing, handwashing, and limiting time together to 15 minutes or less. 

As hard as it might be, avoid the temptation to hug beloved relatives and engage in long face-to-face conversations. These close interactions increase the coronavirus risk.

Find creative ways to share holiday joy with senior loved ones.

Any holiday that occurs during  the coronavirus pandemic will be difficult to navigate on many fronts. It can prove even more challenging for seniors. Some of our senior loved ones struggle with cognitive issues that make it difficult to understand why family isn’t coming to visit. Missing out on cherished holiday gatherings is likely to feel traumatic. 

Every family is working hard to provide support to their loved ones near and far, and it’s not easy. Coronavirus burnout and pandemic fatigue are real and it’s important to acknowledge this. Creating and strengthening connections with others is more important than ever and doing this doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. 

There are many ways to strengthen ties with loved ones during these challenging times. Families can schedule safe communications often throughout the holiday season, so seniors won’t feel left out. Zoom, FaceTime, and other apps allow relatives of all ages to interact online. If you haven’t yet, consider giving these tools a try. 

Marquis Provides COVID-19 Resources for Seniors and their Loved Ones

Marquis offers a variety of ways to connect with senior loved ones this holiday season. We have created outdoor covered visitation areas that feature SafeLink. SafeLink is a plexiglass panel that allows safe face-to-face visits while minimizing the continuing risk of exposure to the virus. Online, connect with our Virtually Vital Facebook page and send “virtual” love to seniors by sharing photos and videos. 

Visit our COVID-19 Updates page for the latest information about how Marquis is helping families navigate the pandemic.