Caring at Christmas


While many people are happily opening presents, spending time with loved ones or tucking into a turkey dinner on Christmas Day, approximately one million people will be working across the UK. Of those, a quarter will be nurses or carers.

Three nurses who will be working across Christmas and New Year this year are Joy Pickles, Melanie Col and Elaine Turnbull, all of whom work at The Dales, one of Barchester’s homes in North Yorkshire. With nearly 70 years of shared experience of working at The Dales between them; they have seen a lot of festive spirit.

“Between us we have covered Christmas or New Year for the last 30 years,” Joy explains. “There are about 18 of us who work on Christmas Day across the team, including nurses, care assistants, the laundry team and of course our fantastic chefs. Looking after the residents over the Christmas period is still all about the teamwork we provide every day of the year. A care home environment is like a big family and even more so at Christmas.”

Melanie began her career as a Senior Care Assistant at The Dales in 2004. Following the training she received with Barchester she became a nurse and is now Deputy Manager at the home. Melanie has turned working Christmas Day into a family affair. “A lot of my family are in the Philippines,” she says. “But my daughter is in the UK, so if I work on Christmas Day my daughter comes into the home to see me and the residents. Over the festive period we have a lot of entertainment, such as local school choirs coming in to sing Christmas carols, which the residents love as they enjoy seeing the young people. My daughter likes to come in to see everyone having fun. This year might be a little different though, as I now have an eight-month-old too; I’m sure the residents would love to see the baby!

“A few days before Christmas, the hairdresser pays a visit so everyone can look their best. On Christmas Eve we lay out a special outfit for each resident; even some of our more frail residents get dressed up. On Christmas Day everyone makes a little extra effort. The staff dress up in their smart clothes too, so we all join in, we’re one big happy family.

“We buy each resident a present from the team, so we enjoy present opening in the morning with drinks, followed by a lovely meal from our chef’s special Christmas menu. Some residents’ friends and family join us for our Christmas meal and as with all families, there are lots of people snoozing in the afternoon!”

Joy adds, “It really is lovely here over the Festive period, but at the end of the day we are still working. As with many places offering any type of care we have had a resident die on Christmas Day, which feels particularly sad. It seems the worst time to break the news to a family. All the same processes have to be adhered to in addition to trying to keep cheerful for everyone else.

“In these situations, the support of the team is key. We have a good rapport and trust each other implicitly, so in more stressful times we pull together and help each other. Last year we had terrible floods across Christmas and Boxing Day. One way or another we managed to get all the shifts covered between us and all the residents were warm and safe. We did miss our Christmas party, which was a shame but we are hoping for better weather this year to make up for it!”

Elaine, an enrolled nurse, will be working New Year’s Eve this year. She explains, “We all dress up for New Year and have a special menu. Not many of the residents stay up to see the New Year in any more, but we used to have a few residents who would love to watch the fireworks on TV. I have spent many a Christmas and New Year here, some dressed a little bit differently, I have even been an elf!

“The care home is an extra special place over Christmas as it feels like a family. Making sure the residents enjoy the festive period and that Christmas is what they want it to be is all part of their holistic care. I can’t wait for Christmas to come!”