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How to Talk to Lonely Parents About Holiday Plans

Spending the Holidays With The Family

Nobody expected the world to change so drastically in 2020, yet here we are. With an ongoing pandemic, travel restrictions, and continued shutdowns, Americans are bracing for the end of the summer. As cool weather returns, bringing flu season with it, many are anticipating a return to more widespread lockdowns. Unfortunately, a vaccine to address the novel coronavirus will not likely be available in time for the winter holidays.

While younger adults are able to adapt to changes brought by the pandemic, the elderly are often denied this ability. Slightly more than 5 percent of America’s senior population lives in nursing homes, but far more live alone or isolated from family. The inability to travel, see friends, and hug family has taken an emotional toll on America’s elderly, and while technology, medical alert systems, and video chat innovations have helped, many seniors are struggling. With the winter holidays drawing nearer, that isolation will only continue.

It’s still too early to say whether seeing elderly parents for the winter holidays will be dangerous, but start having these conversations now. The sooner you introduce the idea of not visiting for the winter holidays, the easier it will be for a parent to accept the possibility. To get the ball rolling, here are a few conversation tips and points to keep in mind – as well as why a medical alert device may help.

Tips for Breaking Bad News to Lonely Parents

When it comes to not seeing family for the winter holidays, you’ll want to prepare yourself for a tough conversation. Keep an open mind, approach the disagreement with compassion, and consider the following strategies.

  • Adjust your framing. Many elderly parents will respond to the possibility with refrains like, “I don’t care about getting sick.” Consider flipping this notion and reframing the conversation around your personal safety and security.
  • Bring it up early. Don’t save this tough conversation for November, when you begin to make December plans. This can make the decision feel more personal to your parent, and they may take greater offense. Instead, gradually get your loved one used to the idea of not visiting for the holiday. While they may seem extremely resistant at first, over time, they will soften on the issue.
  • Continue the conversation. There are five months until the winter holidays, which means there’s still a lot of time to make a decision. As we draw nearer to the travel season, continue bringing up the topic with elderly parents, revisiting the conversation when new information becomes available or when decisions are made.

Staying in Touch Through the Pandemic

Face Timing With Grandpa

Regardless of whether you choose to visit parents for the holidays, there are a few ways to stay in touch that won’t risk health and physical safety. We have a resource for staying in touch with distant family, but as time wears on, you may want to consider less obvious forms of communication. Investing in a medical alert system can be a great option for far-away family members. Medical alert systems provide emergency communication to friends and family, even if the emergency doesn’t warrant a 911 call. And, while we know medical alert systems can be pricey, know that our rates are well below Life Alert® costs. This should make your decision a little easier.

You may want to be alerted to emergencies. You might simply want to feel secure in knowing your parent can reach you at any time. In both cases, a medical alert device is a great option.