The end of the year is full of time spent with loved ones and holiday traditions. Last year was a difficult time for families everywhere as traditions were replaced with virtual alternatives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, thanks to widespread availability of vaccines, there is a reinvigorated hope to gather again while also keeping our loved ones safe.
As we return to the traditions that were missed last year, many people are seeking answers on how to safely gather with our loved ones. Though the vaccine has made it safer to gather again, we must still be vigilant to protect those who are most at risk including seniors, children, and the immunocompromised. Infection rates are back on the rise in many areas and coronavirus variants continue to develop.
As plans are made to celebrate with loved ones, necessary precautions should be taken to ensure a safe and healthy holiday celebration. Here are five things you can do to help keep your family healthy this holiday season.
According to the CDC unvaccinated adults are 12 times more likely to end up in the hospital with COVID-19. While no vaccine is 100% effective in every situation, vaccination has proven the most effective defense against the more serious effects of COVID-19. If you have already received your vaccination, check with your doctor about getting a vaccine booster to provide further protection.
Vaccinated or not, people with pre-existing conditions, seniors, and children are still at a higher risk of being hospitalized by COVID-19. “Seniors are particularly vulnerable, and many have compromised immune systems, so limiting their exposure in the community is very important,” said Rebecca Littler, Chief Nursing Office at Elderwood.
Before you make holiday plans, have a conversation with your family about vaccination. “If you are bringing home an elderly relative from a senior living home, plan with their care team to ensure they will be visiting safely” Littler added. It is best to have these conversations well in advance and understand who could be at risk by gathering.
Testing is a widely available tool that can further ensure safe holiday visits with family and friends. There are several locations where rapid testing is available. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, quarantine in place and get a test before gathering for the holidays.
Consider taking a test especially if you have been in large gatherings, have been traveling, or have any suspicion that you may have been exposed to the coronavirus. Even if you are symptom free and staying local, getting tested before seeing family can provide peace of mind to you and other guests.
3. Wash Your Hands Often
Proper and frequent handwashing is an easy and effective way to help keep our loved ones safe. It not only helps prevent the spread of coronavirus, but it is also critical to limiting the spread of influenza as we enter the height of flu season. If there is no soap available, the CDC recommends using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
4. Wear A Mask
Even if you are vaccinated, you may want to consider wearing a mask to protect yourself and others. Wearing a mask can help reduce the spread of germs by trapping respiratory droplets when a user is talking, sneezing, or coughing. Choosing to wear a mask can provide additional protection to yourself and others especially if the event is held indoors and/or not all guests are vaccinated.
“Wearing a well-fitting mask indoors and keeping a safe distance from elderly relatives is both a smart and caring thing to do to help keep them safe,” added Littler. “To be most effective, masks should be worn snugly over the nose and cover the nose, mouth, and chin without any gaps.”
5. Social Distance When Possible
When gathering indoors, do your best to socially distance. Gathering indoors has become inevitable with the changing weather but can still pose a risk. Proper ventilation is important when gathering indoors. Open some windows and keep air flowing throughout the event. Keeping gatherings small reduces the risk of exposure and increases the ability to stay socially distanced. If possible, bundle up and opt to gather outdoors.
No matter how you choose to celebrate the holiday season be sure to check local guidelines for up-to-date information and infection rates in your community. Be sure to speak with care teams from senior living facilities well in advance to develop a plan on how to visit safely.
Enjoy the time with your loved ones and do your part to keep your families safe.