Being away from friends and family for the past 5 months has not been easy. In the beginning of the pandemic we were staying connected through video chats, drive by car visits, virtual happy hours, zoom chats, etc. Now it seems reasonable to want to spend time with friends and family in-person, at a safe distance.
Luckily, the weather has been nice. We have been able to have loved ones over and spend time outside, 6 feet apart. We have had a few small outdoor barbeques with family. We have been hiking, biking, had social distancing picnics and bonfires with friends.
When planning your visit with friends and family, it is important to be practical and logistical. I found it was best to have a conversation before your visit to discuss expectations. This ensures that everyone is on the same page. What some consider social distancing is very different than what others considered social distancing. Also, everyone’s comfort level and risk level are different. It is easier to have those conversations prior to the visit. Things that used to be so simple now need extra planning! And keep in mind that when the visit is actually happening you may have to tweak your plan if things are not working out as expected.
Our family had finally figured out safe ways to have short visits with friends. Although, we were still struggling with what a visit with family from out of town would look like. We had talked about having my mom come visit since April but weren’t sure if we should do it or not. Once we decided that we were going to do it we had to decide when to do it. So, we started planning. We knew that we needed to plan all the details of our trip in advance. Finally, last week my mom came to visit for the first time since Christmas! But it wasn’t her normal trip to visit our family.
Instead of flying she decided to drive. The drive from Indiana is 10.5 hours. We made a pre-visit quarantine pact. We would all limit our activity outside of the home for two weeks prior to our visit. This meant that we would only do necessary things such as curbside pick-up for groceries, drive thru pharmacy for prescription refills, etc.
Prior to our pre-visit quarantine we both had our cars checked for safety and the oil changed. We mapped out our route, as I was going to meet her half-way and drive back to Philadelphia with her. She didn’t want to make the long drive alone. We picked a meeting spot and called ahead to ask if it was possible to leave my car parked there for the week. They were extremely accommodating and were happy to help. Thank you, Hilton Hampton Inn in New Stanton, PA!
On the morning of the trip we checked the traffic, and both left so we could meet at “the meeting spot” at 12pm. We had both filled up our gas tanks prior, so we were ready to hit the road making the least amount of stops possible. Which meant no morning coffee!
The plan worked out great and we both arrived within 20 minutes of each other. We each had made one stop prior to meeting to get gas and use the restroom (and wash our hands, of course). Once we were at the hotel where I was leaving my car, we used the restroom again, filled up our tanks, got lunch from a drive thru and headed to Philadelphia!
We felt that because we had both been in quarantine for the past two weeks that we did not need to further quarantine upon arrival. We had a great visit, that was much needed and long overdue. When it was time to pack up and drive her back no one was ready to say goodbye. We were comfortable and actually felt almost normal for the first time in a long time. While I was driving my mom back to her car she said, “Had I known it would be this easy I would have made the trip sooner so I could have come twice this summer.” But who knew?!?
There are safe ways to visit with friends and family. Whether it is utilizing the virtual apps that allow us to stay connected or visiting in-person from a distance. We must each assess our risk and comfort levels. Medical providers are instructing patients to be cautious during this time and to slowly ease back into social activities. Loved ones over the age of 65, or that have weakened immune systems or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes or heart and lung disease are more likely to have severe complications from COVID-19. It is important to communicate in advance to friends and family about what your ideal visit would be like. If you are going to someone’s home are you taking your own utensils, cups and plates? Where are you using the restroom? Having these answers in advance will help you decide if this is a visit you want to make.
Courtney is a Radiation Therapist at Penn Medicine in the Department of Radiation Oncology. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Radiation Therapy from Indiana University, and received her Master’s Degree in Public Health with concentrations in Health Management and Policy and Health Education and Promotion from Benedictine University. She has fourteen years of experience in radiation therapy, which includes an expertise in proton therapy and pediatrics. Courtney has worked with OncoLink since 2014, but joined part-time in 2020 as a Global Education Coordinator and is currently developing virtual reality training modules that have been used to train radiation therapists both domestically and internationally.