Back in March, when the words “pandemic” and “COVID-19” just began to creep into our vocabulary, we had no idea that by the holiday season, we’d still be right in the thick of isolating, social distancing, and doing whatever we can to keep ourselves and each other safe. Yet here we are, and it’s important to carefully think through the risks associated with celebrating the holidays with seniors this year.
At the heart of the quandary lies the knowledge that both COVID-19 and isolation from loved ones bring serious, potentially life-threatening risks to older adults. Harvard epidemiologist Julia Marcus explains, “There’s no easy answer here, just like with everything else. It’s not about safe or unsafe. It’s about figuring out how to balance various risks and keeping risks as low as possible.”
And while we’ve learned to avoid super-spreader events, experts warn that the recent spike in infections has been attributed in large part to transmissions within home gatherings.
So how can you make the best decision for your family this holiday season? Here’s what you need to know:
- The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recently redefined “close contact” as it relates to the spread of infection to 15 minutes of cumulative exposure during a 24-hour period, within six feet of others (as opposed to the former 15 consecutive minute definition).
- Although these guidelines reference maintaining social distancing of six feet, it is believed that aerosol transmission can occur at much greater distances – there’s nothing magic about the six-foot figure.
- Family members considering air travel (or other public transportation) are, of course, at a greater risk of exposure to the virus, and can still transmit the virus to others, even if they remain asymptomatic. The safest course to follow would be to self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival, and then get tested – an incredibly difficult protocol to follow.
As a result of these factors, the CDC’s official holiday celebration guidelines encourage people to stay at home with those already living in the same household, which raises the issue of senior isolation and the serious emotional and physical toll it can take on older adults.
Dr. Anthony Fauci explains, “There are some families who are so frustrated with not seeing each other for so long, they’re going to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to take the risk. My mental health of seeing my children or grandchildren is so important to me that I’m going to take the risk.’”
If a senior you love expresses these types of feelings, and is experiencing the negative impact of isolation, you’ll need to carefully consider the risks vs. the benefits of getting together. In that case, face coverings, social distancing, and handwashing are necessary, and time spent together should be limited. Outdoor visits are also preferred.
The holiday season of 2020 may not be the Normal Rockwell celebration we’d wish for, but know that Nightingale Homecare, the leading Phoenix home health agency, is here to help make it as merry and bright as possible for the seniors you love. Contact us to learn more about how we can help alleviate isolation for seniors, coordinate the technology necessary for contactless visits with a senior loved one, and so much more.
You can reach us any time at (602) 504-1555 to discover the measures we’re taking to keep seniors safe, to find out if our services are available in your area, and to answer any questions you may have about our in-home care services.