Care at Christ­mas

How the in­dus­try is work­ing to make the fes­tive pe­riod joy­ful

Hertfordshire Life - - CONTENTS - WORDS: Fay Wil­son

While Christ­mas is a time for fam­ily and cel­e­bra­tion, for those who have lost loved ones or live far from them, it can be a very lonely one. This is some­thing that be­comes more acute as we get older. The char­ity Age UK es­ti­mates that there are over 1,200,000 lonely older peo­ple in Eng­land alone. Thank­fully, there are plenty of ded­i­cated peo­ple help­ing to com­bat this, with re­tire­ment home and shel­tered liv­ing ac­co­mo­da­tion staff work­ing hard to al­le­vi­ate lone­li­ness, and make this time of year spe­cial.

Many host ac­tiv­i­ties each year, with staff mem­bers buy­ing gifts for res­i­dents and open­ing them to­gether on Christ­mas Day. Na­tiv­ity plays, with both res­i­dents and car­ers dressed up for a show for rel­a­tives, which are even broad­cast on­line, has be­come a great way to en­gage the whole fam­ily.

Many care home groups also open up their doors at Christ­mas to non-res­i­dents. Abbey­field runs an an­nual cam­paign called Cop­ing at Christ­mas. The ini­tia­tive in­vites over-55s who live alone to come and have Christ­mas din­ner. The aim is to of­fer com­pan­ion­ship and laugh­ter over home cooked food to those who are wel­comed into its over 500 fa­cil­i­ties in the coun­try.

And, it’s not just care homes get­ting in­volved in the Christ­mas spirit, shel­tered liv­ing de­vel­op­ments also work hard to make sure no-one feels alone dur­ing the sea­son. Vil­lages run by Churchill Re­tire­ment Liv­ing link up with nearby schools and com­mu­nity choirs to ar­range Christ­mas carol ser­vices in their lounges. Res­i­dents have even recorded their own Christ­mas song.

Mu­sic is one of the great­est tools these homes use to spread joy at Christ­mas, thanks to the mem­o­ries it can help evoke, as well as the ben­e­fits it can have on mood. This is the ethos of Mu­sic in Hos­pi­tals and Care, a UK-wide char­ity that puts on Christ­mas con­certs in care homes ev­ery year, of­ten in­clud­ing De­cem­ber 25, thanks to its ded­i­cated staff.

‘The main aim is to spread the joy and the ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits of live mu­sic to iso­lated and vul­ner­a­ble in­di­vid­u­als who wouldn’t be able to ac­cess it in the com­mu­nity,’ ju­nior fundrais­ing of­fi­cer Lucy Din­nage ex­plains. And it re­ally works, she says, with peo­ple get­ting up and danc­ing, and break­ing out into song, creat­ing ‘a re­ally fan­tas­tic at­mos­phere’.

‘It can be a re­ally lonely time for some peo­ple and I think we of­ten for­get that,’ Lucy adds. ‘It’s re­ally im­por­tant to do ac­tiv­i­ties like this be­cause they do bring peo­ple to­gether and they help peo­ple to not feel so lonely. It makes Christ­mas feel like a cel­e­bra­tion.’

So, whether you’re con­cerned about fam­ily hav­ing a lonely Christ­mas or dread­ing the day your­self, re­tire­ment homes are there of­fer­ing a warm wel­come this fes­tive sea­son.

‘It re­ally works – peo­ple get up and dance and break out into song’

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