**Editor’s Note: This is part of an informational series called Notes from the Nurse to increase awareness and understanding of health or clinical issues that could impact our clients and their families.
This is the time of year when families and friends gather, far-flung relatives come to visit, and holiday parties or dinners are scheduled every weekend. But not this year. This is a year that is different than anything we have known.
Add the pandemic and the ever-growing list of restrictions/advisories into the mix and it can become overwhelming to a time that is already a struggle for many already.
Loneliness in older adults has increased almost 30% with 56% of adults aged 50 to 80 reporting they felt isolated or alone, according to results from the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging (NPHA) published in Clinical Advisor in September.
I suspect this number may have gone down temporarily as some COVID restrictions were loosened a bit over the summer and early fall, but I expect this may increase as we get further into the holiday season through winter since our virus numbers are back on the upswing and we are embarking upon cold and flu season. With the mention of cold and flu, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you to wear your mask and wash your hands often.
As much as we hate to do it because we are programmed to be together during the holiday time, not visiting our older, more vulnerable loved ones is the best thing we can do for them. Anyone older or immunocompromised is more susceptible to germs and more significant impacts of viruses like COVID-19 or the flu.
Even Santa understands the risks and is taking precautions. He cut back on appearances and carefully social distances when he is away from the North Pole. He is the best social distancer on his big night: he only visits by himself when everyone is asleep and has been doing this before it was the in thing to do! Who knew Santa was a trendsetter?
To make your loved ones feel like they are still included, FaceTime or video chat and make lots of phone calls. Calls do not have to be forever, just let them know you are thinking of them and love them. Sending homemade cards and treats is another way to include them. Who does not love some fresh baked cookies (in moderation of course)?
Delivery services are also a great way to include those who cannot be with you. Consider sending a meal from their local restaurant to their home or make them a care package and drop it off when you are going to enjoy yours so you can virtually eat together.
Fun gifts like a digital photo frame that can be controlled remotely is an idea to keep them connected to the family. You can always update the photos so they can feel included and see their loved ones.
This will eventually pass, and we will be able to gather safely again. Until then, we cannot let our guard down. Best wishes for a happy and most importantly, healthy holiday season.
Yours in good health,
Stephen Hoelle, RN-BC