KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Holiday plans this year may seem a little more routine this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, since the availability of vaccines as well as herd immunity, according to experts. Keeping elderly or more vulnerable populations safe has been top of mind from the beginning, but there are other reminders some family members could consider if visiting senior relatives at assisted care facilities.

The Arbor Company‘s vice president of communications, Chris Harper, shares a checklist and reminders of things to consider when gathering in-person and other ways families can access seniors if they aren’t able to spend time together face-to-face. The Arbor Company has a senior living community located in Knoxville: Arbor Terrace of Knoxville, which is located along Cross Park Drive.

“I think the holidays are a perfect time to slow down, it’s the time to spend time with family and friends and it’s a good time to spend time to visit with seniors in our lives,” Harper said. “It’s also a great opportunity to do a check-in with them. Things have slowed down and it’s a chance to talk and observe.”

Harper says he likes to remind people of three areas to observe when checking in with their elderly loved ones: Their heath, their surroundings and general overall wellbeing.

“Are they walking, moving around OK? Are they able to reach things, are they having any pains? We want to watch for those in the seniors of our lives to make sure that they’re not kind of minimalizing something that they’re dealing with – and spending time together as a family is a great time to look at that,” Harper said, adding that checking to see if elderly loved ones have plenty of food or are making safe accommodations in their home or living space.

Harper says a good way to check in with an elderly loved one is to ensure the following: Are the cupboards and the refrigerator well-stocked? Are prescriptions up-to-date? What is the general well-being of the person you are visiting? The holidays can be a time to take stock in how well senior loved ones are doing, especially during the pandemic, and consider whether or not they need extra help or possibly even a change in living conditions. 

Also checking to see if an elderly or senior loved one is staying active or socially active is an important factor especially around the holidays.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that older adults who are socially isolated are more at risk of developing depression due to loneliness. Officials at The Arbor Company say that’s why it is important to not only check on your elderly loved ones, but also the state of their mental and social health.

“Loneliness is super-important to deal with, especially seniors,” Harper said. “As social creatures, we need other people in our lives, we need people to talk to, friends, camaraderie, and it’s a good time here at the holidays to check in to see who are they talking to on a regular basis? Or are they talking with their neighbors? Friends? Are they going to activities are senior centers or churches or synagogues – that’s all super-important towards living a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle.”

Elderly or senior care facilities are planning some Thanksgiving events now that most are vaccinated and are able to receive some visitors.

“Seniors in the community are happy to be vaccinated, they’re happy to not have to wear their masks all the time and to get out of their apartments and to really enjoy life once again since there were a few months there where things were kind of paused so they’re happy to be back at it,” Harper said. “They’re going to have their Thanksgiving dinner – which might look a little bit different from a few years ago, but they’re going to celebrate it nonetheless. If you walked into that community right now, you’re going to see a group of seniors who are living life to the fullest.”