Making Christmas special in a Care Home

Discussion in 'ARCHIVE FORUM: Support discussions' started by ElaineMaul, Oct 24, 2012.

  1. ElaineMaul

    ElaineMaul Registered User

    Jan 29, 2005
    Haven't been here for a very long time. Although my Dad passed away in July 2011, I still help out with the 'Friends' group for the home he was in.

    My query is ..... what do other care homes do as a Christmas event to involve patients, relatives and friends, and staff? In the past, they have had either a singer or a disco, with special food plus a 'Visit from Santa'.

    When my Dad was alive, he and a few other patients didn't seem to like the loudness of the music, either the singer or the disco. This year, I have even had another relative say they feel reluctant to donate to sponsored activities if they think the money is going to be spent on loud music!!

    We could just have music of different sorts playing in the background ..... and not so loud ..... and encourage people to dance as a way to make it special. However, one of the senior nurses doesn't think this will make it 'different enough'.

    The care home is actually a Continuous Care Ward for people where their dementia has resulted in severe behavioural problems. Several are also now bed-ridden.

    I'd love to hear what other Care Homes do to make Christmas special and something that can involve as many as possible.

    Thank you :)
  2. jan.s

    jan.s Registered User

    Sep 20, 2011
    This will be the first year that my husband has been in a CH for Christmas, but I know he would hate loud music. How about Carol singers, singing the old traditional songs that they could join in with?

    I have no idea what happens in my husband's Ch at Christmas.

  3. jaymor

    jaymor Volunteer Moderator

    Jul 14, 2006

    This will be the first year my husband has been in his nursing home. It is the same type of nursing home you are helping in. All residents are challening behaviour and most on 1:1 care.

    I asked about Christmas last week and was told they try to keep to the usual routine except lunch will be brought forward to noon as they will be having a special Christmas tea as well as Christmas lunch. The nursing home will be decorated and we are welcome to decorate rooms as we wish. So we will visit between breakfast and lunch with presents etc. and then home for our family lunch as we have for many years. Sad that my husband will no longer be sitting at the head of the table and we will have a new member of the family sitting down for Christmas lunch for the first time. I am in agreement with the nursing home keeping the routine of the day regarding meals as near to every other day as these are nine very confused and easily upset men and they deserve, more than many, to enjoy their day. They will have entertainment over the festive season and hopefully they will all enjoy it, even Dennis who is in the room next to my husband, who on a daily basis falls out with his own eyelashes, bless him.

    I go with Jan.s as to music. I know that not one of the nine men in my husbands unit would appreciate or tolerate loud music. Last week at a carers monthly meeting where most carers have their cared for with them we had a male singer who did a few songs from the shows, a bit of Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly and even Max Bygraves. It was amazing to see the dementia sufferers singing away word perfect when it was impossible for them to string a sentence together.
  4. ElaineMaul

    ElaineMaul Registered User

    Jan 29, 2005
    Thank you both :)

    I should perhaps add that my own opinion, after reading all over the place and observing how my Dad used to be and how some of the other patients behave, is that keeping to a calm routine is of prime importance! My Dad certainly didn't enjoy the loud music.

    I don't know for how long they've had the tradition, but they invite along all the relatives and anyone who wants to come, plus the staff and sometimes it has gone through my mind that it's more of a 'jolly' for the staff to be honest! Perhaps I'm a little cynical?

    Of course, it may genuinely be that they feel Christmas must be marked in some way! The event is usually a few weeks before Christmas, I might add! Not on Christmas day itself.

    I like the idea of Christmas carols. I would still like to hear other people's ideas though :)

    Best wishes
  5. karanja

    karanja Registered User

    Feb 27, 2012
    It is also the first year my wife will be in the CH at Christmas and quite frankly I'm dreading it.

    I have asked about what will be happening and was told that their will be a carol concert on Xmas eve (afternoon) that relatives will be welcome to attend but all other activities will be for staff and residents only including Christmas lunch.

    The staff are also arranging a residents party where they will be the entertainment.

    We were(relatives) given a letter telling us that it would be appreciated if Xmas day visiting was restricted to between 10-12 am. and 3-5pm.
  6. FifiMo

    FifiMo Registered User

    Feb 10, 2010
    The first thing that I would suggest is that you don't create any expectations from people who will probably not even know it is Christmas or what Christmas is about. I hate to say this but in my experience the whole Christmas thing can be more to do with the staff and the relatives than it is about the clients themselves and what their needs and wishes might be.

    Of course we all want our relatives to celebrate but I saw a lot of disappointed faces last year when people got no reaction to presents, got no reaction to the fact it is Christmas and as much as they had put a lot of effort in to making it a nice day for their relatives, to most of them they did not understand and it just didn't matter.

    If it was me, I would make it more of a "capture the moment" type of event and not try to do anything formal. Carol singing went down well especially with some of the people who were bedridden. Others however did not like the singing and the ones who reacted badly were those who had behavioural problems to start with. The bits that did go down well were anything to do with food. Maybe that is how some of the clients are able to identify with it being a special day? Passing round little chocolate items like the tree decorations that you can get went down really well and for once the people with diabetes were able to be included and had their diabetic chocolate treats too. Another thing that was a huge success and even some of the bedridden people were really pleased with them was helium baloons - the type that you get on a weight that can then be sat down next to people so they can see them at their level. I took in some of those cheap santa hats and some people loved them and a few of us have got some nice pictures to remember that moment. Didn't last long though as one client hated the hats and went round pulling them off everyone's head LOLOL. Maybe you could do a game of pass the parcel if you feel the mood is right, if not then just move along and go with the flow.

    I know some of this might sound negative but I am trying to share my experiences so that people don't get upset or disappointed on the day. I'm also speaking out on behalf of the dementia sufferers who might no longer be capable of "performing" and "rising to the occasion" and might just like a nice quiet happy visit from their relatives with out all the party atmosphere.

  7. stressed51

    stressed51 Registered User

    Jan 3, 2012
    I tend to agree with everything that Fifimo has written.It is more for the relatives and probably staff also. Even last Christmas my OH absolutely hated all the fuss at home and showed no happiness or joy with any presents. This was before I had any involvement with any outside help at all, am dreading how it will be this year, as although not yet gone in full time, I am envisaging this will happen before Christmas. My OH was a guitarist and singer in his spare time, of course he can no longer play or sing alone but does enjoy the singalongs and joins in in the daycare he goes to now x
  8. jan.s

    jan.s Registered User

    Sep 20, 2011
    Using the thought of carols, could you get a local primary school to come in and sing. They may also show their christmas play, or at least have a video of it.
  9. hollycat

    hollycat Registered User

    Nov 20, 2011
    I echo Fifimo and Stressed51 words.

    It so reminds me of when my daughter was young.

    We lived abroad for my daughters first and second xmas.

    Cut long story short, daughter was more interested in cardboard boxes and wrapping paper than the lovely and expensive presents that grandparents had sent.

    KISS - keep it simple stupid !

    Am not calling anyone stupid and I refer to MYSELF when using KISS. The KISS acronym has stayed with me from that day.

    Last xmas, mum had no idea what day xmas day was. We had turkey and trimmings etc etc and mum thanked us for a lovely Sunday roast. She also questioned why Aunt X had been invited for Sunday roast.

    KISS is an acronym that we will follow hereafter, especially with mum suffering AD.

    Perhaps WE, the non-dementia sufferers/carers place far too much pressure on oursleves to celebrate xmas ?

    To finish on a lighter note, its BAH HUMBUG, KISS in our house this year, very sad but true.
  10. boudicca

    boudicca Registered User

    Just to say that my dad falls into the 'loves a sing song' category. When the home he is in had a Frank Sinatra impersonator in, it went very well and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I wished that they would do it more often.

    A church choir might be persuaded to do a few carols for you - probably easier to organise that a school. Maybe not on Xmas day itself though.

    To be honest, if the care staff have to work on Christmas day, I don't really mind if the party is more for them than the residents, as long as they identify who would be happier sitting in the 'quiet lounge'.
  11. angelface

    angelface Registered User

    Oct 8, 2011
    Does anyone have any suggestions as to the best time to visit at Christmas?

    My aunt will have her first Christmas in the CH this year, and has already started talking about Christmas. To tell the truth, I really want to visit with prezzies on Christmas Eve, so I can have a very calm and quiet Christmas. We have had so much illness and miserable Christmases, that I have come to dread the day.

    Last year I collected my aunt from the CH where she had visited her sister, having spent a couple of hours there with both of them. I then dropped her off at her house, and got into trouble with aunties friend for upsetting auntie because I had not taken her back to my place. The things was, was that that 2 hours was all I could stand.

    If there is a way to go about this without upsetting anyone, i would be really glad to know.:confused:

  12. Loopiloo

    Loopiloo Registered User

    May 10, 2010
    #12 Loopiloo, Oct 25, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2012
    I agree with you, Fiona.

    Last Christmas was my husband's first in the care home. I was asked if I wished to have Christmas lunch with him and said yes.

    When I went some time before lunch was to be served I was surprised to see the lounge full of visitors as normally there are none! Occasionally one, or two, although of course people may visit at other times, different days, or evenings.

    Even more surprised when all the visitors suddenly left before Christmas lunch! Except for myself and a visiting husband whose wife went into the home a month after my husband. We were shown to a table set for the four of us.

    This was a new experience for that husband and myself. The newbies. Perhaps the others had learned from experience....?

    The whole visit was a disaster, my husband was in a foul mood, nasty, confused, and no interest at all in the gifts I took. After opening one for him I left the others in my bag. Perhaps all the buzz and chatter from so many visitors agitated him. He had no idea at all what Christmas Day was.

    His only interest was the food. He had salmon, beautifully cooked and served, I had Christmas turkey. After gobbling his up he then demanded "the same as you have" and it was difficult. He was very vocal... The husband's wife would not eat, just sat in silence staring ahead - usually talkative then (not now). He tried to coax her, help her.

    The husband and I were served wine, also his wife, and it was lovely. But not a relaxing drink on that occasion! Not for me although I think the husband enjoyed it, that it helped! I had taken a bottle of non-alcoholic wine for my husband, knowing from past experience that his dementia and wine did not go well together.

    I didn't have expectations, although trepidaton and a hope that all would go reasonably smoothly. But my husband was not a happy man.

    None of the dementia residents had a clue about it being Christmas. Once everyone left it was their meal as usual, the carers coaxing some, helping some, feeding some. Some getting up to wander off.

    The lounge was decorated, the tables were beautifully set, the food was good. Appropriate soft music was played on CDs. But it was all lost on the dementia residents. Every day is the same for them and the stages they are each at, and that is the way they seem to prefer it. The usual daily routine.

    I know there was a residents party one evening, I wonder how that went... and that a group of children one afternoon came in to sing carols. Apparently that went down very well, including with my husband, and there were smiles all around concerning the children.

    This year I shall visit him before lunch time, and have our usual visit together, take him one small gift I am sure he will like, but shall leave before Christmas lunch is served. Hoping the buzz in the air he senses but does not understand does not cause him upset. He loves his food, that will be a distraction, I hope.

    He is now chair bound, has his meal on a table in front of him, and twice I have sat with him for dinner. But it does not work. He now struggles to feed himself although sometimes needs help, at times fed, and he is alright with the carers doing that. But if I try to help he resents it, rages, so he is best left to himself to eat. By the time I am at the lounge door he will have forgotten I was there.

    I shall be home alone on Christmas day, after visiting, just as I am after every visit. (family live a distance away, one 150 miles north) Before my husband went from hospital to care home the last few Christmases at home practically went over his head. He did love the Christmas tree, thoroughly enoyed gazing at it (endlessly), admiring it, remarking in the various decorations. Built up over years, with memories he no longer remembered. Last year in the care home he barely noticed the beautiful large Christmas tree close to him.

    Yes, perhaps we do.

    Yes I will be sad, but at least he will be unaware of my sadness. The important thing is that he will not be upset or sad.

    Loo x

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