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Dec 18

Embracing cultural diversity at Christmas

Posted: 20 December 2018

A survey by YouGov suggests that one in five people don’t celebrate Christmas - and whether that’s the people you support or your staff, you need to consider this in your service.

There are lots of reasons why people don’t celebrate Christmas, be it personal, cultural or religious beliefs. For one thing they may belong to a religion that doesn’t celebrate Christmas, for example Islam, Judaism or Buddhism. Some people also have personal reasons why they don’t celebrate it. For example they think it’s become too commercialised, find it a stressful and overwhelming time of year, or it reminds them of loss or bereavement of family and friends - and some people just don’t like it! You need to consider all of these things when you’re planning festive activities in your service.

Sara Hornsey is a registered manager at Albany House. She told us how she ensures their festive activities are planned with people’s personal beliefs and choices in mind.

“It’s fair to say that the festive period can create a myriad of emotions in our service – both with the people we support and our staff. This is why we start planning our festive activities early.

As a starting point we make sure we know whether every individual wants to celebrate Christmas or not.

If they do, we find out what they like and dislike about Christmas and what kinds of things they want to do. Some people prefer group activities, whereas some people prefer one to one activities.

We also talk about what might make them feel sad or anxious over the festive period, and think about how we can support them through this. For example one of our residents’ family lives in another country and he becomes anxious in the lead up to Christmas. During December we ensure that we have more staff so they can spend one to one time with him and support him to go out, which helps to reduce his anxiety.

Our managers and senior staff are around all year if anyone wants to talk about their feelings. This is particularly heightened over Christmas so we ensure more staff are available and trained to support people with their mental health. 

Some people choose not to celebrate Christmas and we ensure that we continue to plan activities and trips for them. We also keep some areas of the home undecorated and offer a main menu alongside festive food and drinks.

If we don’t take this approach, we risk residents having a difficult time at Christmas, possibly becoming unwell both physically and mentally.”

For London-based provider, Jewish Care, the majority of people who use their service don’t celebrate Christmas, but they use it as an opportunity to show appreciation to their diverse staff team. Myriam Browne, Residential and Nursing Services Manager, talks about how they respect and cater for both residents and staff over Christmas time.

“We provide health and social care services to the Jewish Community in London and South East England. We’re mindful of our residents for whom Christmas has no religious significance, so we don’t put up Christmas trees or nativity scenes.

However, our 1300-strong staff team represents 66 different nationalities and religions, many of whom celebrate Christmas.  

Christmas Day is a regular day’s work for our staff, but it has become an opportunity for residents and their relatives to show their appreciation for the care they receive throughout the year. We put Christmas decorations, biscuits and cakes in the staff room and give staff a voucher to show our appreciation. Relatives and volunteers will often stay with residents to give staff more time at home to celebrate Christmas, for example time to have dinner with their family. They say this is something they can do to say thank you to the staff, which creates a lovely warm atmosphere, where staff feel appreciated and respected.

Staff are also incredibly supportive of their colleagues. Those from faiths who don’t celebrate Christmas will often work over the festive period – and they know there'll be someone willing to return the favour to cover their own religious festival days.

With no public transport running on Christmas Day and many staff relying on trains, tubes and buses to get to work, our volunteers step in to drive staff to the care homes. The volunteers are often relatives whose family live or have lived in a Jewish Care home. They go above and beyond to make sure everyone can get to where they need to be for their shifts and make it home safely. Sometimes, relatives who are busy themselves on Christmas Day will donate towards taxis for staff who can’t be collected by volunteers. 

 All of these gestures help to make Christmas a special day for everyone in our care homes, whilst respecting the fact that this is not a religious day for our residents.”

Respecting people’s personal beliefs and preferences is all part of planning and delivering person-centred care and support. Our ‘Good and outstanding care guide’ outlines what providers rated 'good' and 'outstanding' by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) do, to meet their standards around person-centred care. It includes a list of recommendations and practical examples of best practice. Download the guide here and go to page 273.