Christmas in your local care home

23 December 2019

George Coxon is Owner/ Director of Pottles Court and Summercourt Care Homes and Chair of South West Care Collaborative (previously Devon Care Kite Mark). He is a member of the Mental Health Nurse Association National Professional Committee and a Board Member of the Devon STP Collaborative Board.

It only comes but once a year but by golly we do make the most of it in your average residential care home.  Many care homes start ‘decking the halls’ in November and start the carol singing at the same time – at my homes we hold off until December however but we are getting psyched up from as early as mid-October.
Here are a few top tips for all those living and working in care homes, those visiting in a personal or professional capacity and for those who have never been in a care home – but who perhaps should give it a go, especially at this time of year.

1.           The most important thing is making the time

Time is the precious commodity in the sometimes hectic frenetic life of your local care home – so much to do – chores, checks and as much as possible, chats – it’s this last one that we want more of particularly at Christmas. We talk about discovery conversations, every moment spent with a resident affords us the opportunity to learn something we didn’t know already. Curiosity is one of the essentials in how good care homes embed values and their ethos – what matters to those we look after, not just what’s the matter with them.

2.           Tis the season to be jolly

The atmosphere and environmental changes in care homes at Christmas make for a lot of jollity and special entertainments – carols, decorations and smiles make this time of year extra special for older people in care homes.  There is no doubt that the mood enhancement brought about by all the anticipation of the big day carries a great deal of merriment.  We have often spoken, shared and agreed that positive anticipation is one of the essential ingredients in what it means to be happy, not just in care homes but at all times at all ages.

3.           More trees than you can shake a stick at

Many of us grew up with excessively decorated trees, homemade streamers, tinsel aplenty, glasses of sherry, turkey dinners and Christmas pudding with all the trimmings – some not. The need to create the right combination of these with the right ambiance in a communal setting has its challenges but we reflect on all of this and keep a weather eye on making sure everyone experiences the cheerful seasonal spirit so important to us all. 

4.           Care homes are actually mostly about fun

All year round the adage remains true – ‘life in a care home is a 3 letter word – FUN’ never more so than at Christmas – our mix of planned and spontaneous things going on have seen a copious amount of outbursts in my care homes of favourite carols, sharing stories, all the Christmas favourites on the TV, quizzing, an annual fete with residents winning several prizes, as well as our Zimmer frames being covered in tinsel and more than usual dancing in the corridors and living rooms. 

5.           Memories and emotions

Despite all the fun we have we also take account of the need for sensitivity and reflection at times when we remember those no longer with us.  The vast majority of people living in care homes have lost a spouse and will inevitably have some sadness at Christmas time, with a mixture of fond recollections and time spent with visiting loved ones. There will most probably be emotions stirred and some teariness too.

The talk of the reminiscence bump suggests that we fuse our most enduring memories in the years between our adolescence and early adulthood.  There is little doubt in our view that this is very true and long lasting feelings can come much more to the fore with all the festivities associated with times spent and years past. 

6.           Staying involved

Once you’ve been part of the Christmas extravagance at your local care home we’d want to say ‘keep being part of what we are doing and what we are about’.  In the immortal words of one of the greatest prophets of our time, sharing his wisdom through the classic gift of our so often playing Christmas classic modern carols - “Oh I wish it could be Christmas everyday” (courtesy of Roy Wood and Wizzard).  The truth is in many ways it can be in care homes, with enough festive kindness and enthusiasm carried forward by us all.     



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