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Curing loneliness at Christmas with care and company

- a journal entry

Santa gave me an iPad. He really did! Or at least it was one of the Care Outlook team dressed up for the occasion. We’d all had a great night at our annual Christmas party and the drawing of the raffle was just part of the fun.

Others received lovely prizes, too, with the bosses saying it was their way of saying “thank you” to us for our efforts during the year.

That was really nice but, to be honest, for me the work is fully rewarding itself, especially around Christmas time.

In fact, another highlight for me was actually working during Christmas Day. I know that wouldn’t be everyone’s choice but it’s the kind of thing we do to make a difference to the lives of people who need our care.

And, rather than seeing several people as I usually do, I was going to spend a few hours with one lady. Her name is Betty and she’s “84 years young” as she likes to tell me.

Betty is mostly housebound and struggles with her mobility. On Christmas Day, I arrived in time to help her out of bed and to get her dressed. There’s a routine we follow and I’m a great believer in checklists to make sure that nothing is missed.

Next was breakfast – just some cereal and a slice of toast – and the first of Betty’s daily medicine. I could see that one of our team had updated the Medication Administration Record the night before and I added the next entry.

Time to share

There was a reasonable amount of housework to be done so I got Betty settled in her living room before getting on with the tasks. She told me all she needed was the Radio Times and the remote control and I could hear that she’d switched to a carol service on the TV.

It’s a sad fact that, for many of the people I see, the TV is their main form of company. Still, Betty was happy with her choice of Christmas programmes and we had a good chat later after lunch. To make her day a bit more special, I had prepared a proper Christmas meal with turkey and trimmings followed by Betty’s favourite pudding.

Betty told me how, when she was a child, the tradition was to put silver sixpence coins into the Christmas pudding to bring luck to whoever found them. She also chuckled when telling me that her dad hadn’t been so lucky as he broke a tooth when finding one!

It was good to have the time to share with Betty. I even allowed her a very small glass of sherry. It was Christmas after all!

One of my colleagues was due to see her later, so I left Betty in good spirits. She said she was going to spend the afternoon with “grumpy Doc Martin” before watching the Queen.

Not all of the people we care for are as lacking in mobility as Betty. In fact, my next stop on that day was to see a whole group of them enjoying Christmas lunch together.

The meal was provided by Care Outlook and it’s a brilliant way of cheering up people who otherwise would have had a very lonely, unhappy day.

In complete contrast, here they were together having a lovely time, wearing Christmas hats, and some singing along to the festive music that was playing in the background.

I particularly noticed a gentleman called Jack - or Jock as most people call him. He’s one of my current regulars and I was pleased to see he had been fit enough to attend.

Jack is not long out of hospital having had a hip replacement and we pop in to help him with some every-day things that would otherwise make his life difficult during the recovery period.

Spending special time

He’s a great story-teller and I often find myself running a little late because his tales run on and on! I saw Jack on New Year’s morning and he told me I was his “first foot” and that I should have brought a piece of coal.

Now, I’m used to working with people who have various degrees of dementia but Jack is as bright as a button. What did he mean?

I think seeing the confusion on my face, he explained that, up north, the first foot is the first person to enter your home after midnight at New Year and they should offer a piece of coal as a gift, to bring warmth.

Jack also suggested we should have a “wee dram of whisky” but I passed on that and told him he also had to be careful especially as he didn’t want to trip or fall.

So, I’ve had an excellent festive period and was glad to spend special time with characters like Betty and Jack. Seeing all the happy people at the Christmas lunch was wonderful and our team party was great. Care workers really do know how to have a good time when they get a chance!

As for the iPad, I’m already putting it to good use. I want to do some more training this year, particularly in the area of mental health, dementia, and learning disabilities. So, I’ve started my research and have been reading and watching videos on the iPad. And I’ve been browsing holiday destinations, too!

Here’s to a great 2019!

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