The social care sector provides care and support to over a million people in the United Kingdom every day and it does not stop because it is Christmas. There will be thousands of dedicated care and support workers working across social care this year, ensuring that people receive the care and support they need, many leaving their families and loved ones whilst they care for yours.
For many, working Christmas would be viewed as a burden and something many have told me over the years that they would never do, however supporting people over the festive period is fun, exciting and has given me some amazing memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I remember celebrating Christmas last year, away from my wife and children whilst I moved into the care home, but I remember the good times, eating lots of food, listening to music, singing lots of songs, playing games and just ensuring that the people we were supporting were having the best day possible. I have fond memories of working in-home care, knocking on everyone’s door, wishing them a merry Christmas and watching their eyes light up as I gave them all a present and that to me is what Christmas is all about – spreading the festive joy!
Continuity in care really is key, and Christmas time is no different. People who access care and support services will be relying on their care workers to support them with getting up and ready for the day, including support with washing, dressing and personal care, making sure they have their chosen Christmas outfit on, being supported with their medication, meals, mobility and for many ensuring that their home is set for Christmas and that they are ready for any visitors that they may be having or to be ready for when they are picked up to go to family and/or friends.
In the lead up to Christmas, many care providers and staff teams will be getting ready for one of the biggest events of the year. They will be supporting people to purchase presents, write Christmas cards, decorate their homes, and make plans to ensure people are supported in a way that they would like and to have the Christmas they chose. Once preparation is done, many people will enjoy Christmas themed activities, going on festive day trips such as to the garden centre, museums, to see Christmas lights or just staying at home and watching festive films and listening to Christmas songs.
Christmas can be a really positive time, however for many people who live in their home the care worker could be the only person they see all day and I always worry about how this impacts people’s mental health and wellbeing. From experience, many home care companies will be contacting people about the care and support they need, and many people will cancel visits due to the cost or because they want their carer to have the time off and this can leave people without anyone or no care and support and this is one of the sad realities of the care sector.
As well as the mental health of the people we support, the wellbeing of the care staff can also be affected in the lead up to and over the festive period. Staff will be waiting for their rotas to find out what they are working on, will be having conversations with their family about having to work Christmas and this can lead to increased stress, sleep disturbances, anxiety and family conflicts. This year, like last, many care workers will have been managing COVID-19 and the pandemic on top of their roles and this will increase the pressure. Many will be working additional shifts and hours to cover staff shortages and sickness and many close to burnout will be watching their friends and family celebrating on social media which can really hit home about what they are missing whilst at work. It is also important to remember that many care workers, will need to juggle getting ready for Christmas for their families as well as for the people they support.
This year for many people, Christmas maybe like last, with the new COVID Omicron variant spreading quickly. It is important that people are supported to maintain contact with family and/or friends where they wish to as much as possible. Face to face visits are so important for people although I understand many providers are anxious and visiting has been suspended and in some services, families have stepped back again to ensure loved ones are kept safe but it is important that those video calls are ready, cards and presents posted and whatever the festive plans this year, let us thank those thousands of dedicated care and support workers working across social care this Christmas who are ensuring that people receive the care and support they need and let us have an amazing Christmas in Social Care.
Written by Mark Topps
Regional Business Manager, Essex Cares Limited