As the colder and darker nights continue between Christmas and New Year, this time of year can be especially lonely for the 34,000 care home residents across Scotland.
And any feelings of isolation in our residential homes across the region have been all the more compounded this year due to the ongoing coronavirus lockdown and ban on visits from loved ones.
However, care providers, nursing home staff and even local residents have been doing all they can to show a little compassion and make sure there’s plenty cheer to be spread for care home residents and their families.
Philip Stuart, manager at Renaissance Care’s Cowdray Club care home in Aberdeen, said that the limit on Christmas decorations and music, as well as the cancellation of the usual festive celebrations is putting added pressure on care givers to try bring a little seasonal cheer to residents at what is so often their favourite time of year.
“This year has been incredibly challenging for our residents and staff,” Mr Stuart, who has been in the care industry for 16 years, said. “I think everyone thought by the time Christmas came, Covid would be a distant memory and we would all be reunited with our families and loved ones, but unfortunately this is clearly not the case.
“This time of year is especially important to our residents. Not only is it a time that is filled with fun, laughter and quality time with family and friends, but for those who live with dementia or Alzheimer’s, Christmas is a feast for the senses which can often bring back memories.
“The music, the lights, the smells – they all hark back to a time filled with joy and love, so without these, this year some residents won’t get that sense of relief which can mean so much to them and their loved ones.”
Care staff get inventive to spread the cheer
Despite the pressures on staff due to vigorous restrictions and infection controls, Mr Stuart, who began work at the Fonthill Road home in March, has been working hard to make this festive period one to remember.
“Family is always the most important thing to our residents, and the staff and I know many of the families well due to the constant communication we have with them, especially throughout lockdown,” Mr Stuart added. “So, to give them a chance to see each other, we are creating video messages from residents and have even made wipeable Christmas themed backdrop for the videos.
“Instead of welcoming in the nursery and school children, carol singers and entertainers for our residents, we took it into our own hands and putting on a cracker of a visual Christmas show. Dressed up in festive costumes, we silently lip synced to well-known Christmas songs and told Christmas jokes.
Donations from businesses help raise a smile
“Thanks to the recent appeal for outdoor decorations for the home, and the kindness of local businesses and community, we have also been lucky enough to receive donations which has allowed us to get some spectacular outdoor lights and decorations which can be enjoyed by residents from their windows.
“It’s been hard work getting to this stage considering the restrictions, but it’s a testament to everyone involved at how much we’ve managed to pull together, all in the name of Christmas.”
Making similar efforts to brighten up the dark December nights are staff at Banff Care Home, where a donation from local firm Aurora Decorations has the garden glowing for residents to enjoy.
Aurora Decorations owner Eilidh Cryle said: “The residents in care homes have suffered enough this year and I decided that at least we could bring cheer to some residents.
“To see the joy on the residents and staff’s faces made it extremely worthwhile and allowed me to give back a little to a very worthwhile cause.”
And the donation has proven a real hit with residents, who love the “bonny and bright” additions to their garden.
Anne Gibbs, deputy manager at Banff Care Home, added: “All of us at the care home are so grateful to Eilidh and her assistant Peter for their excellent work.
“Staff has said it’s really brightened up their Christmas and that all the stops have been pulled out, while comments from our residents are really positive.”