It’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Traditionally, we would gather as a family for a turkey dinner today (Sunday) at Mom’s. But that hasn’t happened in three years. The COVID-19 pandemic restricted family gatherings during the last two Thanksgiving celebrations.
This weekend we don’t have to worry about COVID-19. Now that all the restrictions are gone, life as we know is back to a more normal routine. But while many families are happily getting together for their holiday dinners, our family won’t be. My sister is not well enough to leave the personal care home. Due to her failing health, she has spent every major holiday and once-in-a-lifetime event in the hospital since March 2020.
This is the first Thanksgiving weekend since Mom had her stroke and was admitted into a PCH. While I’m more than happy to plan a dinner at my place, Mom can’t get into my wheelchair inaccessible home. I suggested going to a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner instead, but Mom declined. It’s not as easy for her to go from place to place the way she used to.
Living in a senior’s care home, she doesn’t have the independence and freedom to up and leave whenever she wants like she did in her own home. Staff have to be informed, extra personal, medical and transportation arrangements must be made and the place we are going to must be wheelchair accessible. All that work and preparation makes going out uncomfortable for Mom. She doesn’t like the hassle as she calls it, so she chose to stay in the care home this weekend.
While most of the world has resumed normal activities, senior’s homes haven’t. Pre COVID, families could book time in a designated family to enjoy holiday and special occasion gatherings with their loved ones. The number of people allowed at these events were based on room size. But today, most personal care homes still follow strict COVID-19 protocols that impact who can visit, how many visitors each resident can have at one time and where outside visitors can meet with their loved ones in the facility. Masks are still mandatory so eating and other activities that require masks to be removed are also not allowed.
So, this Thanksgiving, we’re not gathering for our traditional family dinner. It definitely doesn’t feel the same. It’s strange, it’s sad, and it doesn’t feel like a holiday weekend. We all feel the loss. Commercials, news stories, social media posts and store advertisements further emphasize the fact that our family will not be together this holiday season.
As difficult as it is for us, her children, spouses, and grandchildren, it’s equally if not more difficult for Mom. She never thought she would spend her senior years in a personal care home. She never wanted to lose her house. Spending the holidays in a senior’s home is difficult for her. She misses cooking, baking, and being in her apartment. Holidays highlight what has been lost.
My sister has missed more special events than she cares to remember. This Thanksgiving is another holiday she cannot celebrate with her family. She misses the gatherings, the meals and the life she once took for granted.
Rather than focus on the negative, we are choosing to find ways to celebrate the holiday separately but together. It’s not only important for us as a family, but it is essential for Mom and my sister’s mental health and well being. This holiday should feel special regardless of where they reside. After all, there is still a lot to be thankful for and most importantly, we are very grateful that our mom and sister are still with us. While we can’t gather as one large group, we can still spend time with our loved ones. Whether it is a smaller dinner in our own home and immediate family or a visit at the seniors care home, we are together during this Thanksgiving weekend. And for that, despite feeling the loss of what can no longer be, I, along with my family, are very thankful for what we still have.