Christmas is a time of joy, but for those who are mourning the loss of a loved one, or are suffering from dementia, it can also be a very difficult time. Shockingly, research from Age UK found that over half a million older people are expecting to feel lonely at Christmas.
If you’re celebrating Christmas at your care home, then there’s no reason why you can’t give your residents something to celebrate, whilst striking the right balance.
From decorations to food, entertainment to gifts, read on and discover how you can host the perfect festive Christmas at your care home.
If some of your residents have dementia, then the key is to gradually introduce them to the celebrations; as any sudden changes to their usual settings could cause them to feel anxious and confused.
Making decorations is a great social activity that anyone can get involved in. If you’re partnered with a local primary school, then you could arrange for classes to visit for a couple of hours and help residents make the decorations. Alternatively, you could invite family and friends over, and they could help with decorating the communal areas.
When it comes to Christmas in a care home, subdued decorations are best. Dazzling bright lights and loud music can cause distress amongst some residents; but simple white fairy lights strewn around the windows, paired with traditional tinsel, festive wreaths and homemade decorations should do the trick. For ultimate nostalgia, why not hang up stockings and fill them with satsumas?
You should also designate one room as a Christmas-free safe space, so that any residents who may start to feel anxious or distressed can take refuge when needed.
What is a festive Christmas in a care home without food?! While you’ll need to consider specific dietary requirements, it’s a time to celebrate – and good, old-fashioned Christmas food can really help to lift spirits.
Set up tables in the dining area, and invite residents’ relatives to celebrate with you – just make sure you get numbers beforehand so you aren’t left short of food.
If possible, provide residents with a menu either the day before or the day of the main event, providing them with two or three options they can choose between.
Chestnut soup and pâté are both good options for starters; and for the main, you may want to complement your turkey with all the trimmings with a vegetarian nut roast, and perhaps gammon or beef. If you find you have leftover turkey, then don’t despair – you can treat residents to homemade turkey sandwiches or curry for a good couple of days!
For dessert? Nothing could be more traditional than Christmas pudding and mince pies! You might also want to have a few boxes of chocolates lying around in the common areas, that residents can treat themselves to. Mulled wine, bucks fizz, and prosecco are sure to go down a treat too!
Again, as not all residents will want to sit in a large dining room surrounded by people, let them retire to a safe space if they want to. Some of your residents may not even celebrate Christmas. If that’s the case, it’s important to speak to them beforehand to see if they want to join in with the festivities, or see if they want a separate meal. The main thing is, to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and happy.
Christmas activities for care homes
While Christmas dinner may be the main event, there are so many things you can do during the day to entertain residents and their families.
As part of your care home Christmas activities, set up traditional games like Dominos or Scrabble – they’re a great way to encourage residents to interact with each other, while helping them to stay engaged. You might also want to have a few Christmas-themed puzzle books to hand.
Consider setting up a TV room where residents can relax and unwind – the BBC has classics on like the Queen’s Speech, Strictly and Eastenders. Alternatively, you could play festive films throughout the day.
The activities don’t have to be limited just to the 25th December. You could spend an afternoon baking and icing biscuits with residents. Classic Christmas smells such as cinnamon and gingerbread can help to trigger memories, especially for those living with dementia, which makes it one of the best Christmas activities for care homes.
If you are near a local church, you might be able to organise Christmas carollers to come over, and residents can have a singalong. Alternatively, see if there are any volunteers who’d like to spend some time with residents, or help out with entertainment.
Christmas gifts for care home residents
You don’t need to worry about buying your residents individual presents, as having a nice Christmas dinner is usually appreciated! However, you might want to have boxes of chocolates lying around in common areas for residents to enjoy, or you could gift everyone a selection of puzzle books.
Alternatively, for dementia residents, dolls, soft toys and wheat bags are great present ideas, as they help to reduce anxiety, giving them something to hold.
Christmas presents for care home staff
Your staff are very valuable, so show them how much you care this Christmas by giving them a gift. After all, they won’t be able to spend as much time as they’d probably like to with their own loved ones, due to their shift patterns.
If possible, speak to all employees in the run up to Christmas, to see which shifts they would like to take on. For example, those with young families may prefer to have Christmas off and work New Year, whereas others may want to work the other way round.
When it comes to presents, if you’re on a budget, then don’t worry about spending huge amounts of money – it’s the thought that counts. Chocolates, fruit baskets, prosecco and wine tend to go down well.
Alternatively, you could make up some festive hampers to keep in the office around Christmas – fill them with flavoured tea, coffee and hot chocolate, and an assortment of biscuits. Nice hand cream is often very much appreciated too.
Christmas can be a difficult time for residents for a variety of reasons, especially if it’s their first Christmas in a care home. The key is to keep celebrations low-key, and be mindful of everyone’s needs.
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