How to keep Nan safe this Christmas

Many elderly people in Cardiff feel anxious about mixing with younger family members this Christmas

CHRISTMAS is a time for family, so how can we enjoy this year’s festivities while keeping our more vulnerable loved ones safe? 

Unfortunately, Coronavirus won’t go away. 

For many families, Christmas will be a fine balancing act, through trying to keep elderly members as safe as possible, and also ensure their relatives don’t spend the festive season alone.  

Balancing loneliness and physical health is the crux of this whole situation

Michael Phillips, 55, Communications Manager at Age Cymru

So, where does that balance lie? 

To attempt to answer that question, what better place to start than with my own Nan? 

For as long as I can remember, she has cooked our Christmas dinners. However, for the first-time last year, we made the decision this would not be the case.  

But this year, through regular lateral flow tests and a day of mask-wearing, we’re planning to all spend Christmas together. 

Eileen Ridding, 84, from Birmingham, said: “As much as I love you Jared, it does make me nervous you coming back from university after mixing with so many people.  

“I will be a bit frightened coming round for Christmas this year, but what alternative do we have? 

“Who knows how many more Christmas days we all have left together, so we just have to make the most of it while we can.”  

Me and my Nan on a trip to London earlier this year.  

Not all Nans are feeling quite so nervous about the festivities though.  

Margaret Taylor, 84, from Penarth, said: “I don’t feel anxious about seeing younger family members this year.  

“I’ve had Covid, both vaccines and the booster, so I’m probably better off than most people.  

“My family are all sensible and plan to take lateral flow tests before we all get together.  

“Also, when I’m at my daughters, I have my own bedroom and bathroom, so I have my own space whilst I’m there.” 

The Thomas family last Christmas. (Left to right) Mereid, Margaret, Claire and Angharad Thomas.  

Frequently asked questions 

Dr Rahim Nadeem Ahmed, 50, is an ICU Anaesthetic Consultant, who has worked on Covid wards throughout the pandemic. Here, alongside Michael Phillips from Age Cymru, they offer some advice on staying safe this Christmas.  

Should family members be taking lateral flow tests before seeing elderly relatives? 

Dr Nadeem Ahmed: “Ideally yes, you should be taking them. If you’re symptomatic, then you definitely should be.” 

Can you ask family members whether they have been vaccinated? 

Dr Nadeem Ahmed: “Yes, you can ask members of your family if they are vaccinated if you think you’re in a vulnerable position.”  

What precautions can you take to keep vulnerable guests safe? 

Dr Nadeem Ahmed: “What is advisable if you’re mingling in close contact, is to wear a mask and avoid mixing in large groups where possible.”  

Michael Phillips: “What we’re telling people is to follow the Welsh Government guidance. They know how the new variant is spreading, and to what extent and how it’s affecting people.”  

“The advice we’ve had all along still stands. Make sure that everyone has had a lateral flow test before they mix, wash their hands regularly, hand sanitise, keep distance and if possible, keep the air flow going. Also look at numbers too so the house is not too crowded.” 

“It’s about things like making sure people use their own cutlery, plate and glasses.” 

How should you balance maintaining a social life, while minimising the risk of transmitting the virus to vulnerable family members? 

Dr Nadeem Ahmed: “Ideally, if you’re going to see vulnerable members of your family, you should do a lateral flow, and try and avoid crowded areas prior to seeing them as much as possible.” 

How often should we be testing? 

Dr Nadeem Ahmed: “This depends. If you’re not symptomatic, then every three days. However, if you do have symptoms then you should be testing every day.” 

Many concerns now lie surrounding Omicron, the most recent strain of Coronavirus to enter our shores.  

David and Jan Llewellyn, 80 and 79, from Aberdare said: “This Christmas we hoped to have one daughter and the family for lunch with us on cooking duties, all masked. Present circumstances may now prevent this.”  

David and Jan Llewelyn, 80 and 79, from Aberdare.  

Omicron: what do we know so far? 

The variant has been found in 77 countries so far, and will surpass the previous Delta variant in spreading speed, according to the World Health Organisation.  

Currently, there are 95 cases in Wales (correct as of December 16)

To help combat this new surge, Mark Drakeford has announced plans to offer all adults a booster jab by the end of the year, yet some elderly members may still feel unsafe due to this recent outbreak.  

Michael Phillips said: “We must respect elderly family members wishes. If someone is so anxious about attending an event with other members, sometimes it’s a case of respecting that and not forcing them. 

“While it would be nice to have a grandparent at an event, sometimes it is best for them to make that judgement. 

“They may have conditions that we’re not aware of that would make them more vulnerable to the new variant. So, I think it’s best for them to make that decision.” 

Despite the pressing issue of Covid, loneliness, for some may be a pandemic in itself.  

Loneliness in the elderly: the facts 

  • 500,000 older people go at least five days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all (Age UK) 
  • 59% of those aged 85 and over live alone (2011 Census) 
  • Two fifths of all older people say the television is their main company (Age UK) 

What support is out there? 

With restrictions changing so often, it’s often hard to predict what our Covid landscape will be at Christmas.  

Michael Phillips said: “If for example (worst case scenario) that older people are suggested to shield, there are still some things we can do that are safe: calling our older relatives and neighbours, drop Christmas cards through the letter box.  

“We can even leave cards of reassurance with your telephone number on saying if you do ever feel vulnerable in any way you can call me.” 

Advice lines

  • The Silver line (a helpline set up for older people by Esther Rantzen, offering support to older people 24 hours a day, every day of the year): 0800 470 8090 
  • Age UK advice line (8am-7pm, 365 days a year): 0800 678 1602 

Age UK also offer IT courses for Elderly people to develop basic computer skills. Should they feel unable to see family members in person, applications such as Zoom can help them stay in touch.

(All Coronavirus guidance and information correct as of the December 16)