Think about Christmas from the care setting residents’ point of view
I believe Christmas time is a mixed blessing for many people but particularly so for older people. It is not because I am anti-Christmas myself as I thoroughly enjoy the season of goodwill. I have spent a lot of time talking to older people both in my working life and within the family and have learnt from them that Christmas time can bring with it many mixed emotions.
Society in general has an expectation that we will all be happy and jolly, that we will eat and drink to excess and that everyone will be in a celebratory mood. For some older folk this holds true too. Families come together, quite often involving four generations now, and work hard to include the older person in all the activities. This can make it difficult for the older person to opt out without appearing to be a killjoy or ungrateful.
Of course, we have to be mindful that the care team will want to celebrate too. When I worked as an Activity Coordinator I used to struggle with the wealth of advice about when the decorations should go up and how traditional, or not, things should be. I finally realised that I had to do my best for the residents and what they may have been used to. That meant not starting Christmas too early as it is only in recent years that we have been inundated with festivity for the whole of December. I kept lots of elements low key and had one communal area that had no decorations at all for those that preferred it that way.
Whatever you choose to do please think through what it might feel like for the residents both as a communal group and as individuals, which is particularly important for those living with dementia if the routines and environment change too radically.
Executive Director – NAPA