There is no question that we will remember 2020 as a year like none other. The challenges of a pandemic of unprecedented proportions, the strife of racial and social injustice, the disruption of a bitter and divisive election all combine to make our lives more unsettled and anxious than ever before. In truth it is exhausting and, as I look around, I think that we are all weary of stress and uncertainty.
One of the ways in which that exhaustion manifests itself is in our oft-stated desire, that we just “want our life back.” But a pre-COVID life is not to be had and a post-COVID life is somewhere in the future. So how do we cope, especially now with the holiday season ahead of us? How do we balance our desire to have our holidays the way we “always” have them with the knowledge that we may be putting ourselves and our families at risk?
It’s particularly difficult for our older adults who are the most vulnerable and who want nothing more than to be united with their family members, this year even more than most. Yet putting an older adult at the dinner table with multiple generations, indoors, is taking a very significant chance with their health. There are just too many avenues for this virus to be transmitted, to be spread and to have potentially tragic consequences.
So what can we do? Some of the strategies that folks are employing include the use of technology. Great Grandma may not be physically at the table with you but you may find a way to have her there through Zoom or FaceTime. Other families are reaching out to frail elders ahead of time, sending videos with holiday greetings that their loved one can play over and over again. For those elders who live in the community, sending the holiday meal to them can be an option. In fact, when geography and time permit, some families are delivering the meal so that everyone is sharing the same traditional holiday favorites. You might even gather photos from all your family members as they celebrate their separate holidays and put them in a photo book that can be sent to the elder. You can even add messages that make the book not just personal but a real keepsake. No matter what you do, the key is to find ways to help the elder feel connected, remembered and valued. Isn’t that what we all want, no matter what our age?
It is not going to be perfect this year. It just can’t be. It seems to me that the holiday season this year feels like an unpleasant frosting on the inedible cake that has been 2020. But this is the year that we have had, this is the way we must move forward. We must stay connected, we must stay safe and, above all, we must stay strong.