Jan Millward: Dull November?

Out and about at this time of the year in the past, I have seen some magnificent Guy Fawkes in local homes, most far too good to be burnt! And, you know, sometimes that’s not always necessary. We’ve had some wonderful fun at my homes “dancing with Guy”, and some great memories simply sharing steaming soup and hot potatoes cooked in the glowing embers of a bonfire.

And, while, it may not be possible for all homes to have a firework display due to pets or close to farm animals, you can still join in the fun with displays on the TV or wrap up warm and go to an organised display. And if you do want to do your own, think simply, and remember what brings the most pleasure. Remember Catherine Wheels and Jumping Jacks and painting pictures in the sky with a fizzing sparkler? These things can bring joy without making too much noise. 

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the first World War. War is always a tricky subject, as many of the generation presently in care will have had traumatic memories. It is, however also very important to remember the sacrifice of so many. I have seen poppies made out of tissue paper, crocheted and even painted with thumb prints on display. If you want to lift the mood, have a look at the alternative words to some of the First World War songs, which always makes for a happy reminiscence session. Some such as “It’s the wrong way to tickle Mary” (It’s a long way to Tipperary) are fairly tame. Others would make a sailor blush!

November, being a time of remembrance, also lends itself to being a good time to organise a Celebration of Life service. Often residents will have been in care for a fair length of time and their families suddenly find a void in their life after they have gone. They may have built up friendships with staff and other residents and feel they can no longer visit. It is appropriate therefore to once a year invite the families of those who have died over the last year back. Ask them to choose favourite songs, hymns and poetry which you can put into a simple order of service. Try to make it uplifting and a celebration, rather than too funereal. Maybe the local vicar, if appropriate, would lead a service? It’s always worth an ask. However, you mark it, leave memory cards to be completed and hung on a tree of memories. It is also a nice touch to have other residents make up small posies to be given to the families after the service, and it’s always good to finish with a cup of tea, cake and a natter. After all, many volunteers may step forward if they feel welcome and included.

Jan Millward is a freelance activities coordinator, and has worked in care for the last 15 years, most of which she spent working as an activity coordinator in a home in Dorset with an outstanding CQC rating.