The first heavy frosts – and a dusting of snow in one or two of our care home locations – have arrived and it’s safe to say we’re starting to get into the Christmas spirit here at Baycroft. After the care home visiting restrictions making Christmas rather less family-focused last year, we know that the relatives considering care home options for the future wonder just how festive Christmas is at care homes. We spoke with two of our activity co-ordinators – Lauren at Baycroft Grays Farm Road, and Bernie at Baycroft Flitwick – to find out what they’re planning for Christmas 2021.
“Our Christmas activities have already started!” says Bernie. “Our residents have been painting Christmas pebbles. The idea is that we’ll hide them all over Flitwick during this week, for children in the local community to search for. When they find them, they’ll be able to bring them to us at Baycroft and be rewarded with some goodies. We also have 15 elves that have escaped into Flitwick, which need to be found and taken home to look after.”
She continues, “From December, we start each day by opening the advent calendar, where the residents take it in turn to open a day and read out the message inside, which will be a personalised message about the residents and staff. Our Christmas decorations will be going up in the next week. We always decorate the reception, bistro, dining room, residents’ lounge and the visiting rooms in particular.”
“Ours will go up on Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th of December,” says Lauren. “It always looks like a winter wonderland here! We like to make sure that the home looks as festive as it possibly can, so our motto usually is ‘if it doesn’t move, stick a Christmas decoration on it’. Our lounges will normally have a beautifully decorated tree, our fireplaces all get decorated too along with dining rooms and our bistro area. Our reception area will be decorated with a real Christmas tree and other Christmas knick-knacks will be placed around the home. This year there will be no denying that Christmas has come to Baycroft!”
Festive activities at the care homes
Both Bernie and Lauren make the point that the residents love Christmas and the build-up to the big day, which always involve lots of activities. “We will be making Christmas cards, an advent calendar, decorations, and there’s plenty of baking, especially mince pies,” says Bernie.
“The residents love to get involved in all the activities,” Lauren says. “As well as the cooking and baking, they help with decorating the home, and that usually sparks lots of memories and gets everyone talking about their Christmas traditions and reminiscing about Christmas memories from over the years.”
“We do have a resident in our home who’s a Jehovah’s Witness,” she continues. “We try to include her in as many activities as she feels comfortable taking part in. If she prefers not to – and this goes for all of our residents, whether they practise a different religion or not – we always respect and understand her views and opinions. Not all the activities we put on at Baycroft during December are Christmas-related, so there’s still plenty of socialising and engagement, and things like baking and arts & crafts can always be adapted to each individual and what they want to create at that time.”
“On the 3rd of December we will have Elsa from Frozen singing outside for the local children,” Bernie says. “We’ll have other entertainers visit us (Covid permitting) and we are also holding a raffle to raise money to take the residents out on trips. We will be setting up a festive marquee outside the home, with mince pies and mulled wine every Friday throughout December, where we’ll be selling the tickets. December is also when our Christmas choir starts – including residents and staff – so there’ll be lots of singing. We will practise every week, with a final performance during the last week of December. Last year we attempted to arrange a sing-off against the other Baycroft homes but unfortunately it never quite came together. Fingers crossed the other homes are ready to compete this year – if so, then let the Choir Battle commence!”
“I think, apart from Christmas Day itself, the thing our residents look forward to most is our Christmas party,” Lauren says, “which is set for Monday 20th of December; it’s a chance for everyone to get dressed up and make themselves look glamorous.”
Christmas Day at Baycroft
Christmas Day in a care home isn’t so very different from most traditional family Christmases – presents, a delicious Christmas lunch, mince pies and mulled wine, and the Queen’s Speech at 3pm!
Usually, of course, Christmas Day is particularly busy, with families coming and going, delivering presents and enjoying Christmas lunch with their loved ones. Last year, this wasn’t possible, and our teams arranged for presents to be dropped off in advance and spent a lot of time on the day itself helping with video calls between families.
“We were so restricted with Christmas last year,” Bernie remembers. “Our decorations weren’t put up until a couple of days prior to the 25th and we couldn’t use the beautiful decorations we already had for fear of Covid. We also used to have the local vicar visit to give a Christmas message or service, but sadly this won’t be taking place this year either. But I’ll be here on Christmas Day, along with management and most of the rest of the team, to facilitate phone calls, video chats between residents and their families, and we’re planning a traditional Christmas game of bingo.”
“I will be here on Christmas Day, too,” Lauren says. “I am Santa’s little helper after all!! I make sure that I am here Christmas morning so that I can hand out the Buck’s Fizz whilst residents open their Christmas presents and Christmas cards. We always sing well-known Christmas carols with the residents and I also help the catering team to make the tables look all Christmassy ready for Christmas lunch. The best part of working Christmas morning is seeing how happy the residents are opening their presents and chatting away… and also, by the time I am home, my Christmas dinner will be ready and waiting for me!”
At the time of writing, we are hoping that on Christmas Day we be able to allow a single visitor for each resident – an essential visitor, as set out in government Covid guidelines. It’s worth noting, however, and especially with the recent reintroduction of some restrictions for the general public, that the rules for care homes could yet change before Christmas. Similarly, decisions about visiting may vary between each Baycroft care home, as different local authorities may put in place different rules and we ourselves will look at the local Covid situation regularly. If you have a relative living with us, please do check with your care home manager what the plans are over the Christmas period.
We will always put the safety of our residents first, but we hope that what you’ve read above reassures you that there’ll be plenty of atmosphere and activity, laughter and festivity in the care homes this Christmas!