The holidays can be a great time to connect with older loved ones who may be living in nursing homes. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic — and the threat of a new variant — it’s key to take precautions so your loved ones aren’t put at risk. Learn how you can safely celebrate the holidays this year.
Can I Safely Visit Nursing Home Residents Over the Holidays?
Yes. There are plenty of ways you can safely connect with nursing home residents you love during the holiday season. Most COVID-19 nursing home restrictions have been lifted as of mid-November 2021. However, the coronavirus pandemic is still not over — and nursing home residents are still at risk.
Nursing homes bring older adults who may have pre-existing health problems together in a communal setting. This creates a perfect storm since COVID-19 is highly transmissible and more dangerous for those with pre-existing health issues.
If you’re planning on visiting nursing homes this year:
- Stay up-to-date on vaccinations: COVID-19 vaccines are very safe and can protect you from serious illness or death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you are planning on visiting a nursing home resident this year, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re vaccinated.
- Wear face masks: The CDC recommends wearing a face mask in places where COVID-19 transmission may be high — even if you’re vaccinated.
- Follow other precautions: Nursing homes may have rules to keep people safe, such as temperature checks for visitors and social distancing guidelines. Make sure you know the facility’s rules before you visit.
- Check on your loved one’s health: If you haven’t seen your loved one in person recently, take a look for possible signs of nursing home abuse or neglect during your visit. Be sure to note any strange changes in their physical, mental, or emotional health and report them.
Following all safety guidelines can ensure that you and your loved ones have a safe and stress-free holiday season.
Nursing Home Residents & COVID-19 Omicron Variant Risks
COVID-19 still remains a threat and more information is emerging about the new Omicron variant. This variant first made headlines in late November 2021 and has since appeared in nearly 20 states in America.
Further, NBC News noted that a booster shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine can protect against the variant — but caution is still needed as medical experts continue to study the Omicron variant.
Since nursing home residents are at a high risk of COVID-19, it may be a good idea to get a booster shot if you plan on visiting them due to this new variant. Make sure that your loved one has gotten a COVID-19 booster too.
COVID-Era Nursing Home Holiday Ideas
With all the proper precautions in place, you can celebrate the holidays with nursing home residents and feel at ease.
Find some great ways to celebrate the holidays in a nursing home below.
Christmas caroling is a great way to get into the holiday spirit. You can organize your own choir or pass out printed lyrics to songs so nursing home residents can join in.
Christmas caroling can be done indoors if the carolers are vaccinated or outdoors if the weather is nice.
Make sure to check with nursing home staff ahead of time if you’re planning on bringing a large group to sing. They can see if caroling is a good idea depending on the COVID-19 rates in your area.
Holiday Care Packages and Presents
A holiday care package or an early Christmas present can brighten a nursing home resident’s mood. You can give residents ornaments, festive clothes, or treats that fall under their dietary restrictions.
You can hand-deliver presents or mail holiday care packages if you don’t want to risk spreading COVID-19. Either way, you’ll be making the residents you care about very happy.
You can also have a nursing home resident help you select and/or wrap gifts for other family members if you choose to visit them in person. This is a great way to get them involved in the holiday season and give back to others.
Coordinate Digital Visits
If you, a close family member, or a friend live far away from a nursing home resident and can’t see them in person, a digital visit is the next best thing. Smartphone and computer applications like FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom have made video calls much easier than ever before.
A nursing home resident will be delighted to get a call from a close friend or family member that they haven’t seen in a while. Maybe you can even make the call a surprise for the holiday season.
Safely Connect With Residents This Holiday Season
It’s great to spend time with nursing home residents you love during the holidays. While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic still poses a threat, following precautions can reduce your risks and allow you to celebrate with your loved ones.
As you visit nursing home residents that you love, make sure you pay attention to their overall health. While Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the New Year are supposed to be happy times, nursing home neglect and abuse do not take holidays off.
Be sure to quickly report nursing home abuse to ombudsmen, Adult Protective Services (APS), or 911 in the event of an emergency.
On behalf of the entire Nursing Home Abuse Justice team, have a safe and happy holiday season.