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Christian charity advises how to handle government 'no hug or kissing granny' warning

by Tola Mbakwe

A charity that helps Christians reach, serve and empower older people has recommended how to engage with elderly family members this Christmas. 

It's after England's chief medical officer said people "just have to have sense" and avoid hugging and kissing elderly relatives this Christmas, 

Professor Chris Whitty stressed that people should not have such a tactile approach with loved ones this festive season "if you want them to survive to be hugged again".

The medic, who said he will be "on the wards" over Christmas, said that while hugging is not against the law, it is not a sensible thing to do.

He told a Downing Street press briefing: "Would I want someone to see their family? Of course, that's what Christmas is about, whether people celebrate Christmas as a festival themselves or from any other belief system. It is an opportunity for families.

"But would I encourage someone to hug and kiss their elderly relatives? No, I would not."

Carl Knightly, CEO of Faith in Later Life told Premier it's a difficult thing to ask of people:

"I was reflecting with my friend, Betty, who's 100, who I visited a couple of weeks ago at a care home, and she said there's a difference between existing and feeling alive. For that older person, they might just really need a hug. So I think we need to make that decision individually, and it's not an easy one.

"Some older people, they get to see their family maybe once or twice a year, and obviously, that's been exacerbated by Covid. We know that loneliness is as bad as 15 cigarettes a day in terms of your health. So there's a balance to be had."

Knightly advised having a conversation with an older loved one about how they feel about physical contact before seeing them for Christmas.

"I think that there will be perhaps some older people who are annoyed and irritated and don't like being told what to do. Because, of course, older people will like any people have their own thoughts on things and they're not just one homogenous group.

"I think it's really important for us not to make decisions for our older loved ones, unless they're unable to understand things. And I think the decision needs to be with them. But it's very important that everybody understands all the information that's out there."

Prof Whitty emphasised that the no hugging and kissing warning is not law.

This week the Government pledged that relatives of care home residents in England will be able to hug their loved ones before Christmas if they test negative for coronavirus and wear protective equipment.

Its winter plan, published on Monday, stated: "The Government is committed, by Christmas, to providing twice-weekly testing to enable all care home residents to have regular visits from up to two visitors.

"If a visitor has a negative test, is wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and follows other infection control measures, then it will be possible for visitors to have physical contact with their loved one, such as providing personal care, holding hands and hugging."

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