I’ll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents by the tree
Hearing Bing Crosby sing this Christmas classic brings a tear to my eye because my Dad, who was in middle-stage Alzheimer’s, passed away on August 20, 2020, from Covid-19 complications.
And my Mom, who has dementia, is in lockdown in a memory care unit. We haven’t been able to bring her home in months, since the funeral – to be exact – when a special exception for a few hours was mercifully allowed.
Maybe you too are missing a loved one (or two) around the tree this year? According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 1.5 million seniors live in nursing homes and another 1 million live in assisted living in the United States.
With Covid cases climbing, it seems certain our beloved matriarchs and patriarchs in long-term care communities won’t be coming home for Christmas.
To raise awareness about the millions of families separated from loved ones due to Covid-19 lockdowns, Mary Anne Oglesby Sutherly of Nashville, Tennessee, started a ribbon campaign called Hugs for the Holidays.
She is encouraging families with a loved one isolated in lockdown to display a hot pink ribbon around a tree, on a mailbox or even on a door wreath to let others know of their family separation. Hot pink ribbons are to distinguish from red holiday ribbons.
“For those that have loved ones that are living with dementia, truthfully, this may be the last holiday they have,” Sutherly told a Nashville television news crew. She is a member of the Facebook group Tennessee Caregivers for Compromise, a group lobbying state government officials to allow for a safe and reasonable reopening of long-term care facilities.
The national group’s website says this is needed to stop the unintended consequences of this prolonged physical separation and isolation. Their tagline is “because isolation kills, too!”
The New York Times published ‘A Slow Killer’: Nursing Home Residents Wither in Isolation Forced by the Virus about the potentially fatal effects of isolation on the elderly.
And AARP published She Watched Mom Decline Through a Nursing Home Window, Then Said Goodbye Via iPad.
As for me, I do wish government regulations would allow each long-term care resident to designate one essential family caregiver and allow that person to enter a resident’s living quarters weekly to clean up and spend time with lonely loved ones.
And yes, I do believe essential family caregivers should meet the same health standards as health care workers entering the facility. Test negative and wear a mask.
Because I haven’t been inside Mom’s room since June when I moved her and my Dad into the unit, I have no idea what she might need. Does she need more personal hygiene products (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.)? Does she need an extra blanket for winter? Is she drinking enough fluids and staying hydrated? Of course, I’d really like to set up the Christmas crèche she’s displayed each year for decades.
The Hugs for the Holidays campaign has spread beyond Tennessee to other states, including Kentucky. Hot pink ribbons have even been spotted in South Carolina at Andria Carter Hancock’s home with a gorgeous bow made by her friend Rita at Front Porch Fixins in Powdersville, SC, as shown in the the picture above.
Let us know in the comments below who you are honoring with a hot pink ribbon as part of the Hugs for the Holidays campaign.