Let us start with the absolutely obvious: this is going to be an unusual Christmas. This is even more true for the care sector, which stands at the epicenter of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
Understanding and implementing the complex – and constantly evolving – guidelines can be daunting to care home managers and owners. They must strike a fine balance between the festive joy of celebration and the stringent protocols of resident and staff safety.
Is it possible? We think so. In this post, we’d like to talk the talk about the ways in which you can bring good cheer to your residents – safely.
Santa Claus Visits
The Santa is arguably the most iconic element of Christmas, next only to the Tree. Here are some ways you can ensure that Santa visits your care home safely:
- He or she is from your own care home
- Does not visit other care homes
- Does not go from person to person handing gifts
- Changes into the outfit at the care home (rather than traveling in and out of the care home with the costume on)
- Has taken a COVID-19 test with a negative result.
- Wears PPE [personal protective equipment] and practices social distancing
- Avoids prolonged contact through hugging
- Practices hand sanitisation between each handshake (where unavoidable)
- Washes the outfit by itself in a separate wash cycle at the highest tolerable temperature for the fabric (if not washable, quarantines the outfit alone for 72 hours between each use)
Where these are not viable, Santa can still visit the residents virtually, through a video call from an adjacent room or even a different building. If you’re planning a virtual visit, it is important to ensure you have a large enough screen to project the video on to, good speakers and a responsive mic. Test them out beforehand. Be sure to also decorate the room from which Santa “visits”. Decide how far he or she will sit from the camera and how loudly he or she will speak. Rehearse several times.
Christmas Tree & decorations
The Christmas Tree and the decorations are what physically bring Christmas into the room. This Christmas however, care home staff and managers have to go a few extra miles to make them safe for everyone.
- Place the Christmas tree strategically to minimise contact and touching. Ensure there is sufficient room for cleaning around them.
- Decorate with cleaning in mind. Avoid all edible decorations to minimize touching and contact.
- If decorations are hung from the ceiling, do not move ceiling tiles to place them as this poses an infection risk.
- If there is a risk of contact, create a discreet barrier between the residents, staff and decorations.
- Have a single person do all the decorations to avoid transmission and reduce contact.
Gifts are another quintessential aspect of the Christmas celebrations and it is important for residents’ mental and emotional wellbeing that care homes facilitate a safe exchange of gifts.
- Have a designated person to receive gifts on behalf of residents
- Wipe the packages clean when possible
- If the gifts cannot be wiped clean, quarantine them for 72 hours in sealed plastic bags
- Homemade food and beverages must be consumed only by the recipients
Christmas carolling is an old and sweet tradition that dates back to the 1400s. They literally bring home the message of hope and good cheer to the listeners. But with the limitations imposed by the pandemic, carolling in its usual form may not be possible. Yet, there are other creative solutions:
- The staff themselves can be carollers, which mitigates some of the risks of infection
- If individuals or groups who are not a part of the care home come as carollers, ensure that it is done outdoors and at a safe distance.
- To aid hearing, carollers could sing into a mic connected to a wireless speaker inside the home.
- Care home staff and resident family members could also carol together virtually over a video call projected onto a screen
Games and Activities
If and when visitors come to the care home, the staff and managers can find creative ways to engage the resident and family members. They can be safe, mentally stimulating and emotionally meaningful to the residents. They can be facilitated with a good two-way personal (or environmental) audio system.
- Card games such as Family Time, Which Would You Choose, Do You Remember, How Will Do You Know Me, can spur great conversations between the resident and visiting family member if used right.
- Activities like playacting, poetry reading, virtual photo montages, can also provide a creative way to supplant the loss of physical affection.
It is important that you communicate with the resident and family members taking their desires and wishes into account and planning the activities around them.
As we come to terms with the pandemic, care homes, while adhering to government guidelines, must learn to be agile and problem solve creatively. Creative thinking and innovation are at the heart of what we do at Eleanor, and you can see the creativity of our team in full display in preparation for Christmas and New Year. Look out for more great ideas in our Twitter feed, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages.