How to keep in contact with vulnerable family members in disability care and aged care this Christmas 2020
Christmas is a time for the gathering of people or a time to treat yourself if you are not lucky enough to be able to be around your people. But some parts of the world are experiencing higher levels of COVID-19 infections than ever before and their Christmas will look very different than it ever has in the past.
But not in Australia, it seems. The number of cases per day in Australia looks promising (statistics dated 28 November 2020, where the average amount of new cases per day has been divided by the total population):
- UK Average daily Infections per 10,000 people: 351
- USA Average daily Infections per 10,000 people: 422
- Australian Average daily Infections per 10,000 people: 0.61
Although pockets of the virus could break out at any time, as residents of Victoria and South Australia know too well, there is some cause for relief, especially considering the statistics mentioned above. The NSW and Federal Governments are tentatively relaxing restrictions for public gatherings, the Queensland border is re-opening, and there are even special spots at the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks for essential workers.
Exercise some caution
Gladys Berejiklian stated recently that she wants us to exercise a cautious freedom as well, warning that the summer holiday period is a riskier environment than ‘one-off exemptions’ in NSW for annual events.
This coming relaxation of restrictions relieves some pressure that we may have felt if there was still a lockdown, like there is in the UK where families are worried and saddened by the thought of an isolated Christmas.
Meeting up, staying safe
If this blog was being written in March or August 2020, the message would be to stay safe and stay home during the Pandemic but, as it stands in Early December 2020, we can get out there and meet with our families at long last!
However, is still vital for us to practice COVID safe behaviour when meeting with the elderly and those living with underlying health conditions or weak immune systems and the community as a whole. The virus is still out there and another wav could happen if we become complacent.
The people that are most at risk during the Christmas period are the elderly and the infirmed. It is worth considering a COVID safe approach to connecting with those most at risk.
It is vital to remember that, even though our rates are low, expanding your circle of people during the COVID-19 pandemic increases your risk of exposure When in contact with other people, remember to follow COVID safe protocols:
- Stay 1.5m apart at all possible times
- Wash your hands very regularly
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds each time
- Use masks over your nose and mouth, without touching them
- Use hand sanitiser
- Cough into your elbow and wash hands immediately.
- Get tested and self-isolate if you have any symptoms
COVID safe Christmas activities
Maintaining connection with others is important for your mental health. Amanda Leggett, Ph.D., of the U-M department of psychiatry advised to consider your family traditions and uphold them virtually or at distance. With this in mind, here are some Christmas activities we can do, with COVID-19 in mind:
- Self-love and care – Remember that the person you spend the most time with is YOU! If you nurture your relationship with yourself, you are more able to weather the storm of isolation, loneliness, grief or separation.
- Talk kindly to yourself
- Find or continue your hobbies
- Take the time to sleep and rest well
- Take the time to eat healthily more often
- Drink lots of water
- Stay sun-safe
- Virtual gatherings – here are some ways you can virtually share Christmas dinner:
- Teach Nan and Pop how to use Zoom, Skype and email
- Ensure any additional tech is setup like loudspeaker, hearing aid loop or headphones
- Arrange a time that suits everyone
- Arrange to have the same meal and same music
- Open presents on the video call
- Play a game like charades, or snakes and ladders, to strengthen that connection by joining in a joint activity
- Send a hand written card – it means so much more because you have gone to the effort of writing and posting
- Its more personal than an e-card or an online printed card.
- Make the time to call a friend or relative who is far away over the holiday period – Having a Skype video call or Zoom video chat will cheer you up as much as it does them!
- Give back – volunteer to help those less fortunate than us. Maybe help a shelter, or food program. Have a look in your local area and get involved.
- Send a gift through the mail.
- Hand deliver gifts, stay at the door – If you want to make a difference to someone who is at risk, consider having a contactless personal delivery of a gift, staying 4m or more away.
- Meet up in the garden. If you live with people who are at risk, or are involved in supported independent living you will not be readily able to avoid contact. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Remember the 1.5m guideline
- Place seats further apart
- Ensure crockery is only used by 1 person
- Avoid embracing where possible – we are almost used to the ‘elbow’ or ‘foot’ high five now
- Ensure everyone is COVID safe
- Consider silly face masks, a bit like the idea of having silly Christmas sweaters.
- Plan for the future
- If you are unable to visit your nearest and dearest, make a plan for future visits as something to look forward to. Hope and excitement for the future are great antidotes to times of loneliness.
Gratitude sets your attitude
Our attention and focus are key catalysts for our emotions, which is why gratitude – that is to say, acceptance and thankfulness for the things we DO have – goes a long way to improving our happiness. One study has found that more grateful cardiac patients reported better sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of cellular inflammation. So, what have we got to lose by trying out a gratitude journey?
We cannot always find the silver lining of that cloud, but Counselling can at least be with you on your journey. If you are feeling the negative effects of this pandemic, or the restrictions it has led to, you can contact ConnectAbility and speak to our counselling service. Maybe you are feeling isolated, or alone. Maybe Christmas is not a time of such happiness as other people make it out to be. ConnectAbility can help you with a range of challenges. Click here to visit our counselling page.
Have a wonderful, COVID safe Christmas and a Joyful New Year and seek out the magic that this holiday promises, despite the changes that have been occurring.