Christmas in a Care Home

As it’s December it’s only fitting that we explore what it’s like at Christmas in a care home.  I’m going to look at what happens on Christmas Day and how everyone makes Christmas special for our residents.

Like everyone else our residents look forward to a fabulous Christmas with their loved ones, great food, entertainment, maybe watch the Queen’s speech and perhaps even a little visit from the big guy in red! 

We want to make Christmas a special time for our residents so our dedicated teams of care assistants, activity coordinators, kitchen staff, cleaners and nurses often sacrifice a traditional Christmas with their own families to make sure our residents have the best day. 

I’ve been chatting with some of our activity coordinators about what Christmas Day is like at the homes and what activities are available to the residents, I’ve also been talking to Keiron our Catering Manager about what’s on the menu at Christmas and the kitchen team.

Christmas Tree at Abbey Meadow

Activity Coordinators

Activity coordinators are responsible for organising activities that are tailored to the needs of individuals, as well as group activities to bring the residents together. Booking external entertainment. Organising transport and trips out in the local community. Helping people take part in the activities

Activity coordinators have a key role in the daily lives of our residents.  They organise activities tailored to the needs of each individual resident as well as group activities to bring everyone together.  They not only organise the activities but also help the residents take part in the activities.

Let me introduce you to some our activity coordinators; Nikki is our senior activity coordinator and works at Abbey Meadow, Claire is based at St Lukes and Michelle at Lonsdale.  I asked them a few questions about what type of activities they arrange and what Christmas is like for the residents.

Nikki – Senior Activity Coordinator, Abbey Meadow
Claire – Activity Coordinator, St Lukes

Claire:  Tell me a little bit about what Christmas in a care home is like.

Nikki:  Christmas in our care home can be lots of fun for staff and our residents.  We love to have the residents’ family here in the home as well.  We love watching Christmas movies and singing Christmas songs all together.  We try to make Christmas a music filled time.  The atmosphere is beautiful on Christmas day every year because it’s so lovely to be with everyone.  Our kitchen team always make a lovely Christmas meal.

Claire:  Christmas in our care home is a really lovely experience! The day starts with presents.  Every resident is given a present bought by the activities coordinators with money donated by Risedale, they are thoughtful, personalised gifts that they love to open.  Dinner is a tasty, traditional Christmas dinner and staff join the residents to eat.  It’s different at the moment with restrictions placed on families visiting and moving freely around the home, but our staff do their very best to provide a homely and family feel to the day.  The afternoon and evenings are spent chatting, watching Christmas films and having a drink where possible.  All in all the warmth, fun and love you would expect.

The atmosphere is beautiful on Christmas Day

Nikki – Senior Activity Coordinator

Claire:   How do residents spend Christmas Day?

Nikki:  Everyone is up early; the music is on in the background while the residents all open their gifts together in the lounge.  Breakfast is always lovely and the residents have a nice morning.  Just like all family Christmas days its all about the food!  Lunch is everyone together around the tables with wine and a lot of fun, lunch is three courses.  We sometimes have a singer come into the home so we can all have a singalong.  Family can visit over the day or night.  Christmas would not be Christmas without the Queen’s 3pm speech which we all watch. Then Christmas tea is a buffet around the TV watching a movie.

Claire:  Residents spend the day enjoying each other’s company and the company of the staff.  A lovely buffet tea is laid on, the Queen’s speech is usually included and a good carol singalong will always occur at some point.  Opportunities to put their feet up and have an after-dinner snooze are there too.  This year we are able to have some visitors in, either to share dinner with their loved ones in their rooms or for an hour long visit.  We will also do some video calls to family who can’t be with us.

Michelle:  Christmas day starts with greeting the residents with a cheery Merry Christmas!   After breakfast the residents open their presents from under the tree.  A few gentle games are played whilst listening to festive music.  A Christmas lunch is enjoyed by residents and staff and for those who wish a glass of Christmas cheer!  The afternoon is spent watching the TV with the highlight being the Queen’s speech.  A buffet tea is served and a few more games ending a fun filled day.

Claire:  What kind of activities are available for residents either leading up to or on the day?

Nikki:  Lots of activities are available for residents throughout, such as Decorating the Christmas trees with the staff, Christmas crafts, Christmas baking, singalongs, movies, Christmas shopping, meals out, shows at the forum, children from local schools coming in for carol singing, bell ringers, so many things.

Claire:  Lots!  For my units we have had singers in, a huge relief to be able to have that again, the residents love it.  We had a countdown to Christmas party at the beginning of December.  We have a Christmas party for the residents, food, drink, games and a carol service.  We’re providing a Christmas eve mass service for those who wish to attend.  There are lots of Christmas craft sessions going on too.  This is in addition to our regular activities like move and groove, virtual theatre and our popular ladies afternoon and gents time!

Michelle:  Some activities available are music, games, singalongs, quizzes, bingo, jigsaws, colouring and many more things.

It’s a wonderful feeling to go away knowing that you’ve brought joy to people

Claire – Activity Coordinator, St Lukes

Claire:  What’s the best part of working in a care home at Christmas?

Michelle:  It’s a jolly time of year.  Residents become part of your extended family.  Seeing their pleasure opening their gifts and reminiscing of Christmases past and the stories they tell.  Entertainment from outside is always a happy time for residents and they enjoy singing along which makes is all feel good.

Claire:  Seeing our residents faces when they open their presents.  It’s a wonderful feeling to go away knowing that you’ve brought joy to people.  There’s also a warm feeling of friendship and care between the staff.

Christmas Tree at St Lukes
Santa at Abbey Meadow

What about the food!

We’ve heard about the activities and all the fun residents have on the day, so now let’s look at Christmas day from the kitchen’s perspective, what’s it like in the kitchen at Christmas and what food can residents expect!  I’ve been chatting to Keiron our Catering Manager to find out.

Keiron – Catering Manager

Claire:   Firstly, can you tell me a little about your background and your role at Risedale 

Keiron: I work as the catering manager for all of the Risedale care homes.  With a background in hospitality, I never thought I’d end up in the care sector but there are a lot of transferrable skills and a better work life balance.   Risedale has grown as a company over 25 years and have always provided quality food.  The company was at the stage though where they needed to bring the kitchens in each home together for consistency with IDDSI diets and ordering.  Before my appointment there wasn’t a catering manager, in the two years I’ve been here I’d like to think I’ve made a positive impact for the residents and the company.  I’m able to source a wide range of goods, implement changes company wide and add new ideas, such as the resident mocktail bars. 

Claire:   Can you tell me what’s on the menu or is that top secret?

Keiron: We try to make it a traditional Christmas feast that everyone would expect.  There’s a full turkey dinner, with all the trimmings of course, soup and prawn cocktail to start with mince pies, yule log and sticky toffee pudding for afters. 

Claire:   What’s Christmas Day like for the Kitchen Teams

Keiron: The kitchen teams are busy little elves preparing the food to perfection.   They make some adjustments to the menus throughout Christmas week to provide more festive dishes for the residents.  There is a slight increase in work as we also cater for the staff on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  Overall though there is little change to the amount of hours that the kitchen team work, unlike restaurant kitchens at this time of year!

Claire:   What’s the best part of Christmas in a Care Home

Keiron: I think it will be the Christmas parties, when they get a singer in, play games, have mince pies and a glass of bubbly, where appropriate.  Generally everyone having a good old knees up.

So, there we have it, a little look into Christmas in a care home.  It sounds like our residents are in for a fabulous day!

I would like to finish by saying a huge and heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone at Risedale that works tirelessly to make a difference for our residents all year round.  Thank you to all of you who will be taking time away from your own families over the festive period to make sure our residents have a lovely Christmas and New Year. 

To everyone working in care, no matter where or what role you do, thank you!   You are appreciated for what you do.  I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.