The Holidays, Caregiving and COVID-19: How Will It Be Different?
Age brings wisdom and experience, but it also brings inevitable feelings of loss. Holidays in general can be difficult for many older folks and their caregivers. Memories from the past, changes in routine, and the challenges and stresses we currently face create sadness and disappointment. Caregivers are overwhelmed with fulfilling holiday traditions while maintaining the care and safety of their older loved ones. Finding the balance between past traditions and the reality of what this holiday season will look like is a challenge.
Even though this year will be unlike other past celebrations, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy this holiday season and keep the spirit alive.
1. Acknowledge your feelings
The holidays will be different this year. It’s OK to feel sad and to feel a sense of loss. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. If you are feeling sad, lonely or isolated, please reach out to others. Call, text or video chat with a friend or family member. There are also many online support groups, websites and virtual events that can provide companionship and support.
2. Set reasonable expectations
We need to accept that celebrations with family and friends will be scaled down. It doesn’t mean we can’t find meaning, purpose and joy this holiday season; it just means we are going to have to be adaptable and a little more creative, like sharing a holiday meal through a video call.
3. Simplify your holiday activities
Focus on the activities that hold the deepest meaning to you and your loved ones. Remember, the holidays don’t have to be all or nothing. Focus on things that will give you and your older loved one happiness and meaning.
4. Involve your loved one as much as possible
If your older loved one will be with you this season, or if they are living in a care facility and can connect with you via video, include them in as many of the simple holiday preparations as possible, like baking a holiday dessert or wrapping gifts.
5. Accept help
If friends or family offer support, say yes. Have a list of tasks handy that others can do easily, such as make a meal, bake holiday cookies, pick up groceries or help with an outdoor chore.
6. Keep self-care a priority
This has been a tough year. Between the fear, anxiety and isolation of the pandemic and the continual worry about your future, your family and your caregiving responsibilities, it’s been easy to lose sight of your own health and well-being. Taking time out for you and doing whatever reduces your stress, clears your mind and restores an inner calm will be well worth the effort.
7. Understand the risks
If an older loved one will be joining you this holiday, it’s important to weigh the risks to their health. Take all necessary precautions to protect them and their safety. Physical distancing, mask wearing and hand washing are just the basics. Don’t forget to outline a plan for your older loved ones’ care in case you should become sick. Identify family or friends that could step in, keep an updated care plan with all the necessary medical information and keep a list of respite and long-term care facilities your loved one could go to in a worst-case scenario. Take the same precautions for your loved one: Do you have a plan if they should get sick?
You can still have a joyous, safe holiday. This season, emotions and stress are running high. Try to stay in the moment and celebrate the things that represent the true meaning of the season—family, home and time together—whether that be in-person or virtually.
There is no doubt 2020 has tested our resilience. With the holidays just around the corner, our resilience will be tested again. No matter what this season looks like for you, I wish you a peaceful and healthy holiday season.