REGISTERD MANAGERS’ THINK TANK: How are home care providers planning to tackle loneliness this Christmas?

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Christmas can be a difficult time for many, particularly older people, who may be recently bereaved or have family members who live abroad.

With this in mind, we asked members of our Registered Managers’ Think Tank to share how their teams are planning to support their clients over the festive period, from delivering gifts and cooking a special meal to hosting festive decorating competitions and arranging video calls with loved ones.

Claire Jackson Good Oaks Home Care (Poole)

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“As a company we try to make a real difference in lots of small ways and go the extra mile. We start by making sure that all our clients have help to decorate their homes if they so wish, then a card and present is delivered personally from their main carer, so they know someone is thinking of them. We work collaboratively with other local organisations to do this and deliver extra gifts to those who will spend Christmas alone. We make sure no one will be alone for their Christmas dinner and ensure carers are on hand to cook or deliver a special meal for them on the day.

“We also ensure all our carers ask the right kind of questions. For example, if a client’s family lives abroad, our carers can arrange a video call, instead of asking if they will be seeing them over Christmas. Staying connected to loved ones can make a big difference in people’s morale and give them something to look forward to over the holiday season.

“Many of our carers also buy their clients gifts, which they’ve selected and bought personally. This, combined with the company-wide effort, goes a long way into spreading that all important Christmas cheer, especially for those who may otherwise feel quite differently.”

Gemma Bristow, Radfield Home Care (Wakefield and Dewsbury)

“We have already put together Christmas gift bags for our team of care professionals which include a £50 gift voucher, bottle of prosecco and some chocolates. We are currently looking into Christmas gifts to issue out to all of our people who use the service too – we do this every year to ensure people feel part of the Radfield family.

“We have decided not to hold staff Christmas parties in person due to risks. Therefore, we have arranged to hold virtual Christmas parties instead. We have started our annual collection for the local food bank to support people in the community we work in. We also carry out monthly welfare checks with all of our people to ensure we are there to listen and offer support where needed to tackle loneliness and isolation. We are also encouraging all of our clients to get involved in ‘Christmas Jumper Day’ to help spread the festive cheer.”

Hannah Morgan, The Good Care Group (England)

“At The Good Care Group we provide live-in, round the clock care, meaning that our clients have company throughout the festive period. An important element of live-in care packages is companionship and our professional carers work hard to ensure that clients are able to continue to engage with their families and communities all year round. We have been able to support our clients to travel safely to their loved ones’ homes where required by using our concierge service to help plan accessible routes.

“Christmas can be a difficult time for clients who might have been recently bereaved or who don’t have a close relationship with their family, so the professional carers and care management teams work hard to find activities to support community engagement and reintroduction of past hobbies or finding new entertaining things to do. This might include attending Christmas carols (and even participating!), decorating the house together and preparing a delicious meal to enjoy together. We also run Christmas decorations competitions to get the carers involved in some healthy competition to make the clients’ homes as festive as possible.

“Our business development teams work closely with the local communities to support people who may not require our care at present, including hosting ‘Forget Me Not’ dementia cafes for family carers and their loved ones to attend. These can be a lifeline for many families living with dementia.” 

Jade Farnsworth, Carefound Home Care (West Bridgford)

“Loneliness is something that can creep up on older people and so we are proactive in trying to reduce loneliness and isolation amongst our clients and our local community. This is particularly the case at Christmas when our staff love taking the time to celebrate with their clients and families.

“This year, our carers will be delivering mince pies and Christmas cards to clients across Nottinghamshire and we are also ensuring that clients who don’t have family to celebrate Christmas Day with can enjoy a special dinner with their carer. Celebrating Christmas with our carers is also hugely important to us at Carefound Home Care and so we are going to be giving extra special gifts to them this year to say thank you for their care, compassion and dedication during 2021.

“We will also be helping tackle loneliness and isolation across our local community by delivering a hamper of needed items to The Friary homelessness charity in West Bridgford.”

Karen Rides, Bluebird Care (Camden and Hampstead)

“This Christmas we are supporting our customers like any other day, but with a twist. We will provide a Christmas dinner and pudding and a cracker for customers who will be on their own.

“We have arranged taxis to collect staff and take them to our customers so we can keep allocated times of care visits. We are looking at staff who have a work mobile and will be able to video call our customers’ loved ones to ensure they have a lovely day on Christmas Day.”

Stacey Bridle, Right at Home (Bournemouth and Poole)

“We do our best to work out which clients are likely to be lonely at any time of year, not just during the Christmas period. I think the isolation experienced by many people, particularly the older generation, during the pandemic has made us all think about this more. We familiarise ourselves with the family and friendship groups of our clients throughout their time with us.  It has been more difficult during the pandemic because much of this has had to move online and we’ve really missed the opportunity we had in the past to get our clients together for a Christmas lunch. 

“In the lead up to Christmas, we’re reinforcing the companionship side of care by encouraging clients to get out and about with us as much as possible to enjoy shopping or just to have a coffee, enjoying the buzz of normal life that they’ve missed so much during a year and a half of restrictions. I realise any renewed coronavirus restrictions could limit our opportunities to carry on with this.”

Robert Stephenson-Padron, Penrose Care

“At Penrose Care, in tackling loneliness during the Christmas season, our first point of call is ensuring dependability during this difficult global pandemic. Penrose Care has not had a single visit missed during the time and that is due largely to the heroism of our manager Olga Garcia who quickly covers shifts when we have to isolate a worker.

“A home care worker’s physical presence, especially during the pandemic, is often a social care client’s only physical contact in a day and, therefore, key to tackling loneliness during any time of the year. Olga’s speed and the infection control professionalism of our staff has meant Penrose Care’s physical presence during the pandemic is also reassuring rather than anxiety inducing – we have had zero COVID-19 onward infections from staff to clients since the pandemic started.

“Penrose Care workers are equipped with smart phones and so this holiday season they will do what they have during the entirety of the pandemic – allow our clients video call family and friends from their phones if they don’t have the infrastructure to do so already in their homes. Before the pandemic, I used to pay a visit to every one of our workers working on Christmas Day. Alas, it would not be prudent to resume this just yet.”

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke