Robyn Taylor, one of our regular activity coordinator columnists, says that working in a care home at Christmas is extra special, because you truly feel as though you are making someone’s Christmas, and you are there for people when their families can’t be
Its not just about the day. The build up to Christmas can be daunting too. The anxiety of knowing you will be alone for this family-orientated holiday may affect a person’s mood. Ensure you spend that extra time to find out their thoughts and feelings behind this occasion. Don’t keep it to yourself, inform other staff so you can work as a team to support their mental and social wellbeing.
How can we make this time of year special? Of course, you will put on group activities, carols, arts and crafts, mince pies and sherry. And this is great. But Christmas is a really important time to think of the individual in these group sessions too.
Christmas Cards: Making Christmas cards is a great example, therapeutic and a social event. But what happens with them once made? Send them to relatives and friends who they want to wish well. Can your reception team help by calling the next of kin for extended family and friends addresses? Always write a return address on and walk to the post box with the resident so you know it’s been sent and you’ve allowed them to feel like they’re involved in the process.
Be Personal: Christmas can be a magical time for many. Even working in a care home can be special, you feel as though you are making someone’s Christmas, and you are there for people when their families can’t be. They say Christmas is about giving and not receiving. But how would you feel with just one generic card from the home? Organise the staff to write individual cards, residents to write to each other even local schools and groups in the community. The more on display in the person’s bedroom shows they are being thought of.
Honour Your Friendships: On Christmas day, we open gifts from the home, enjoy a big dinner and play games, sing carols and watch The Queen’s Speech at 3pm – but what happens when the coordinator goes home? Can you arrange for small groups to congregate in each other’s room in the evening with a tipple and A Daily Sparkle to prompt discussion? Can the kitchen department have residents helping out later on, even something as simple as making tea and warming mince pies, or helping with the washing up – just the kind of purposeful activity that feels normal and familiar for so many. Can you leave the iPad or laptop out for residents to Facetime staff members who haven’t been on shift? In the home I worked in, one staff member even went above and beyond and took a resident home for Christmas dinner with her own family. Wow!
Think About Community: It’s not just the residents who may be lonely. There may be lots of people living alone in the community. Why not organise a free lunch for them to come and build friendships within your care home. If you’re concerned about money, fundraise in advance – and don’t forget to beg and borrow whatever you can!
Be Kind: Finally, remember that the small simple things are just as important. I will always remember giving a resident a hug on Christmas Day and her reply was: “I can’t remember the last time I had a hug.”
We hope you have a lovely Christmas, and for all those who are working, know how much all your efforts will have an impact on the residents’ day.
Robyn Taylor has worked as an activity coordinator in Lincolnshire for the last nine years. She recently won the East Midlands ‘Putting People First’ award for the care home she works in. She has always been passionate about enabling residents to continue with the things they love the most, and working with relatives and the community to ensure new and exciting opportunities are available.