Holiday Travel and Senior Care During COVID: Is It Safe?November 17, 2020
With the holidays approaching and the COVID-19 pandemic still uncontrolled in many areas across the country, many people, especially those with elderly relatives living at home are asking the question: should I travel for the holidays? While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clearly says that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others, the answer to this question, as with most things related to both elderly care and the pandemic, is complicated.
The Benefits of Family Visits for Seniors in Home Care
Not only are those over the age of 60 at higher risk for COVID-19, elderly people who live at home alone are more likely to feel isolated and lonely, especially during the holidays. While an in-home caregiver can help with social interaction, seeing family at the holidays is unquestionably important. Many families have not been able to be together since the start of the pandemic, and families have real concerns. It’s fair to ask the question, will this be our last chance to spend the holidays with Grandma? How many more opportunities will we have to all be together as a family? That motivation is valid, and should be considered when weighing the risks.
Alternatives to Holiday Travel for Elderly Family Members
Some people will decide that the risks are too great to them or their elderly relatives, or the distance is too far to travel this holiday season. In that case, a long-distance celebration may help fill the gap. Here are a few suggestions for celebrations:
- Share a family recipe that you all make together over video chat.
- Some streaming apps like Disney+ and Hulu have created “watch party” functions. Have the kids all watch a favorite holiday movie at the same time, while the adults catch up over the phone or video chat.
- Still want to prepare a big family meal? Consider packing up some of that recipe and delivering it safely to an elderly neighbor.
An elderly person receiving home care assistance can get help with any of these. Whether it’s meal planning and grocery shopping, navigating the technology for connecting, or help bathing and dressing to look good for the occasion, a home care agency can help with whatever is needed to make a virtual celebration enjoyable.
Deciding to Travel to See Elderly Relatives Living At Home
Regardless of the risks, many families will make the decision to go ahead and travel for the holidays. To do so as safely as possible, the CDC has created guidelines to help guide decisions. Those guidelines include:
- Get tested and self-quarantine before you leave. Testing isn’t a panacea, and you can still test negative for a period after exposure, but by isolating for a period of time before travel, the risk goes down.
- Check for rising case numbers at home and at the destination. Rising numbers at home may increase your chance for exposure before leaving. Rising numbers at your destination may mean greater risk of exposure while traveling.
- Check local restrictions, especially when traveling between different states. For example, those living in Chicago are asked to quarantine after travel to certain areas. The list of areas with a quarantine order is updated each Tuesday. Find information on your state’s public health department
- If you’re traveling somewhere you can easily reach in a single day by car, driving is generally considered safer than flying.
- Stay in someone’s home rather than a hotel. You’ll be in closer contact with your hosts, but a multiday stay in someone’s home is less likely to lead to exposure than staying in a hotel where other guests and hotel employees may spread the virus.
- Consider alternate dates: Did you know Thanksgiving was moved for a few years in the 1930s and 1940s? Since airports, highway stops and other places will be busier on Thanksgiving weekend, consider moving your holiday celebration to another weekend.
- Dinner al fresco? If a family gathering involves a mix of people who live together, those staying for the weekend and those just visiting for the day, consider having dinner outside (weather permitting). Ventilation and airflow are key to minimizing transmission of the virus, so even if outdoors isn’t an option, keep some windows open to increase airflow. It’s worth putting on a sweater to be able to see your loved ones.
- Practice social distancing, wear a mask in public and wash your hands frequently.
- Finally, if you have symptoms or aren’t feeling well, stay home.
Home Care Powered by AUAF Is Here To Meet Senior Care Needs
We know this is a difficult time for families, especially those caring for elderly relatives. Our high-quality in home caregivers provide services that can help give your family peace of mind whether you celebrate together in person or remotely. Call us at 773-274-9262 or contact us for information on how we can help.
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