The holiday season is a joyous time for most people. Preparing for the holidays can be quite hectic, however, and the holiday season is likely to look different this year for most people, including employees and residents in senior living communities. Here are four tips to help your organization prepare for the holidays during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minimize stress

Both staff members and residents may feel added stress as the holidays approach. Staff might struggle to balance taking care of residents while caring for their own families (buying presents, coordinating visits, hosting guests, etc.). On the other hand, residents may feel the weight of not being able to visit with loved ones or saddened by this season being different from previous years.

Make an effort to minimize stress among your employees and residents. Be caring toward the people you encounter, and aim to be flexible when things don’t go as planned. Chronic stress has detrimental effects on both mental and physical health. Fortunately, there are a variety of proven ways to cope:

  • Practice mindfulness and meditation
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough sleep
  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat a balanced diet

Provide residents opportunities to beat holiday stress by applying these ideas within your community. Plan activities that incorporate exercise and mindfulness. Encourage employees to join in on residential activities or to use these practices in their own lives. Provide healthy food options and access to water for all individuals. Additionally, remind staff members to use vacation time as needed — taking a break for self-care can fight stress and lessen caregiver burnout.

Connect with loved ones

COVID-19 has restricted in-person visits with loved ones for people around the world. Visitation is particularly limited for those living in senior living communities and skilled nursing facilities, and residents may feel especially lonely as the holidays approach. Additionally, many community employees have to work holidays and also are not able to visit with loved ones.

Fortunately, technology advances allow folks to connect face-to-face no matter the physical distance. Just about every tech company has released its version of a way to connect, from Microsoft Teams to Zoom to FaceTime to Google Hangouts. Aim to find a platform that works for you and your loved ones. Employees in senior living and care communities also should lend a hand to less tech-savvy residents so that they can connect with their loved ones this holiday season.

Be festive

Whether you have a full staff working or new residents this holiday season, make your community feel like home. Make the space joyful and festive with holiday decor.

Play holiday music throughout your community. Studies show that listening to such music can brighten moods, so both staff and residents will benefit.

Consider having holiday-themed dress days and serve traditional holiday foods that celebrate the different cultural celebrations throughout December. Research shows that even just the smell of the gingerbread cookies (or other scents) can elicit holiday memories.

Plan for the future

Although this year has been anything but normal, looking forward to the future can help everyone feel better. There is no doubt that the holidays will be difficult during the pandemic, but encourage positivity among staff members and residents. There are no guarantees, but experts believe that proven treatments, public health measures, and a potential vaccine provide hope. Help your employees and residents get through this challenging season by making tangible plans for future holidays.

Annette Fields is the executive director of Vineyard Johns Creek, an assisted living community opening in 2021 in Johns Creek, GA, specializing in care for those who have memory loss. She has more than 10 years of experience in healthcare and senior living.