Protecting Vulnerable Family Members This Holiday Season | News, Sports, Jobs

As someone who has a high-risk grandparent, I am cautious about where I go and who I associate with in the days leading up to a visit. To make sure I’m negative, I always keep a supply of rapid home tests on hand. Over the past two years, I have become acutely aware of environments that are not suitable for a high-risk parent. My high-risk grandparent lived with me, which resulted in the development of a cautious sixth sense.

As the holiday season approaches and we plan gatherings, keep your high-risk family members in mind. We show our loved ones that we care in many ways, including taking all the necessary precautions to keep them healthy.

Contrary to what many people assume, COVID-19 is still prevalent, especially among older people. With the holiday season approaching, it’s important to keep your elders in mind when you return home to celebrate. I have many high-risk elderly family members in my life, so I can sympathize with those who find it difficult to take the extra steps in terms of precautionary measures. Changing aspects of your daily life may seem strange, but as uncomfortable as these measures may be, the safety of others is more important.

If you have guests who don’t think the precautions put in place are necessary, explain to them why they feel that way, while reiterating that the plan is created to keep someone they love safe. Ultimately, don’t adjust the structure of the event to the point of endangering your vulnerable family member. A few moments of discomfort are insignificant compared to the well-being of those you love.

Actions to take:

• Recognize why your family member is vulnerable and plan accordingly. For example, if you have an elderly grandparent with a respiratory problem, make sure your space has adequate ventilation. Even opening a window helps if the weather permits. No home is too small to provide a safe environment.

• Although COVID-19 is not generally transmitted through surfaces, ensure adequate cleaning for your events. Changing sheets and towels, as well as the use of specific cutlery and utensils for serving food, are useful. Keep an eye out for rooms in your home that become occupied, as these will be prime locations for germs. If a room has constant traffic, walk in and wipe down all common areas from time to time.

• Ensuring all guests are up to date on initial vaccinations and booster shots will help keep everyone safe. Do not hesitate to explain to your guests why they need to be vaccinated and to direct them to the place where they can be vaccinated. Most family doctors and pharmacies offer vaccines and flu shots at the same time.

• Taking home COVID tests in the days leading up to your visit will give you confidence that you are safe from the spread of a disease you may not know existed. Home tests take about 15 minutes and are easy to use for all ages. With simple instructions, these little boxes will be among your most powerful tools.

• Based on your COVID-19 test results, you will be able to determine if you should attend. Not only should you be tested before your visit, but you should also monitor your symptoms. If you feel anything out of the ordinary, take a quick test and see your doctor for a formal test. Although rare, false negatives can occur in a test soon after exposure. If you often find yourself in environments that could be hotbeds of disease, try to avoid them or self-quarantine before your event. Whether your quarantine lasts a week or 2 days, do your best to stay away from crowded areas.

• Wearing a mask during your event or visit may be the biggest precaution you can take. It’s simple and all guests can comply. If many guests feel they don’t need masks, moving your event outdoors would be an appropriate solution. If you need masks indoors, try to have outdoor seating for those who may need occasional mask-free breaks.

Through the eyes of a young family member

• My experience with the ongoing pandemic has been somewhat different from that of others, and because of this, I continue to feel its acute impact on daily life. Single-use masks littering the sidewalks with “Six Feet” stickers at the grocery store, we are reminded every day that normality does not exist; however, we should not let our “new normal” prevent us from learning from our mistakes and our experiences.

• Turn what you’ve learned into new solutions this holiday season. Taking an extra step is never useless. Not only are you protecting yourself, but you are showing that you care about those around you.

Eleanor Macdonald is a sophomore at Williamsport Area High School. She plays on the women’s varsity football team and is a cellist in the school band. She is currently preparing to perform with a WAHS group for the annual meeting “Make a wish” Foundation fundraising event and is a member of Let’s end COVID!, a North Central PA group working to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

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