While it’s already difficult for some people to be with their older loved ones during the holidays, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this will be a reality for many more people.
The coronavirus vaccines are working extremely well, research shows, even during the period of the dangerous delta variant. But on the rare occasion that a vaccinated person does fall seriously ill with COVID-19, older adults are more likely to experience severe breakthrough cases than younger populations. For many families practicing a few extra precautions won't hurt.
If you choose to celebrate the holidays with your loved ones with a mix of virtual and in-person activities this year, don’t despair. There are many ways you can bring the seasonal joy you’re used to experiencing, even if it looks a bit different.
Here are some of Marjorie P. Lee’s best tips for celebrating the holidays, even if some or all your celebration is virtual.
A Caregiver's Guide to the 2021 Holiday Season
1. Plan Calls and Video Chats
Throughout the pandemic, you’ve likely gotten pretty good at chatting and video calling with your senior loved ones. Whether you’ve created a monthly or weekly schedule or something completely different, consider increasing your frequency during the holidays. They’d love to hear from you more often, and you can bring them to your holiday celebrations. If you decorate your home for Christmas, for example, try to schedule a video call with your loved ones to show them your beautifully decorated winter wonderland.
2. Make Holiday Treats Together - Virtually
Yummy holiday treats are often a crucial part of holiday celebrations for many families. If you’re making Grandma’s cookie recipe this year, consider calling her while you’re making it. She might be able to give you some extra tips to make sure they come out just the way they would if she made them! Or, if your loved ones have access to a full kitchen, too, you can each make the recipe. Then, enjoy your finished product with a nice warm beverage and chat about your favorite holiday memories.
3. Deliver Holiday Meals & Treats
Depending on where your loved ones are and whether you’re local to them, this may or may not be possible. Whether you want to share a plate of Christmas cookies or some of your Christmas Day feast, getting some of your goodies to them can help everyone feel a bit more involved this holiday season.
4. Find & Recommend Church or Synagogue Services
If your older loved ones enjoy church or synagogue services — especially around the holidays — make sure they can access those, if at all possible. If it’s not a good idea for them to attend in person, many places of worship are still streaming or recording their services this year. Do some research, find a good option for your loved one, and then explain how to access it. If you’d like, you can even watch at the same time as them to give them a greater sense of community.
5. Drive-through Light Shows to Get in the Holiday Spirit
Which holiday light show does your family loves to see? It’s the most sparkling time of the year and there's no better way to celebrate the winter season than by visiting spectacular holiday light shows. Buckle up with your loved one and explore these socially distanced drive-through light shows in the comfort of your car to help to put you in the holiday spirit.
6. Tune in to Live-Streamed Holiday Events
Do some research to find a festive celebration that will be on TV or online. For example, the 94th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in a modified version last year. Macy's said the 2021 parade would include new precautions as in-person viewing resumes in Manhattan. Consider watching the parade “together” while on a video call with your loved ones so you can chat about the floats and entertainment while it's happening.
Caregiving and celebrating the holidays still look different. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t all still have a memorable time this holiday season! As has been the case throughout this year because of COVID-19, video calls are of the utmost importance and can make everyone feel a little bit closer. No matter how you celebrate with your loved ones this year, remember that spending time together — even if it’s virtually — is the most memorable part of the season.
Editor's Note: This post was originally written in 2020. It's been updated for 2021.