Indoor snowball fight at care home enjoying first restriction-free Christmas

An indoor snowball fight, Christmas fair and a carol concert are some of the festive activities care homes have been hosting this year.

An indoor snowball fight, Christmas Fair and a carol concert are some of the festive activities care homes have been hosting to mark the first Christmas without national restrictions since the coronavirus pandemic.

Residents of Hamble Heights care home in Fareham, Hampshire, limbered up for an indoor snowball fight with fake snow with schoolchildren from nearby Whiteley primary school.

The pupils sang Christmas carols and chatted to residents about what they were looking forward to over the festive season.

Handout pic of children from Whiteley Primary School singing carols at Hamble Heights care home, operated by Encore Care Homes. (Hamble Heights/PA)
Children from Whiteley primary school singing carols at Hamble Heights care home, operated by Encore Care Homes (Hamble Heights/PA)

Wellbeing manager Vanessa Duggan said during the lockdowns staff worked hard to keep residents entertained, but they missed visits from entertainers and local children who would raise their spirits.

She said: “Since welcoming in local schools and outside entertainers, the atmosphere in our care home has lifted completely.

“The residents can get involved in group activities and their family can come along and join in, which makes a huge difference.

“Christmas is always a special time for our residents as they enjoy putting up the decorations around the home, so the wonderful performance from the Whiteley primary school pupils was the icing on the cake for them.”

Jeffrey Carter, a 66-year-old resident, said he had found it “really stressful” not being able to hug his family during the pandemic.

Of the recent activities, he said: “Being able to welcome in live singers and children’s choirs again has given me a real boost.

“It has been absolutely amazing being able to see them sing and we can dance along.

“We even had an indoor snowball fight with some of the children and it was lovely to see them laugh. It has made Christmas a lot more special again and it is just what I need at this time of year.”

The Hall care home in Thornton-Le-Dale, North Yorkshire, hosted a three-course meal for 150 local older people over three days in a heated marquee in its grounds – a tradition put on hold for two years during the pandemic.

Residents at Hutton View care home hang wishes on a Christmas tree (Hutton View/PA)
Residents at Hutton View care home hang wishes on a Christmas tree (Hutton View/PA)

Guests were also treated to a performance by a Michael Buble tribute singer, Lee Hutton.

Manger Diane Hagan said it has been “so heart-warming” to see loved ones reconnect.

She said: “This is the first time in two years that we’ve been able to have guests visit the home and spread Christmas cheer; we’ve had schoolchildren in, singing along with residents at carol concerts, we held parties so that friends and family can celebrate with our residents – and we even had a bagpiper visit to ‘play-in’ Santa before he handed out gifts.”

Other care homes hosted Christmas fairs, pantomimes, parties and community sing-a-longs.

In Hutton View care home in Brentwood, Essex, residents have been writing out their wishes and hanging them on a Christmas tree.

Staff at the home, which provides residential and dementia care, will make at least one wish come true for a resident in the new year.

Jeff Carter who lives at Hamble Heights, in Fareham, after suffering a stroke (Hamble Heights/PA)

Sue Learner editor of the care home reviews website, carehome.co.uk, said: “Christmas 2020 and 2021 were very different, with restrictions on the number of visitors and residents unable to have visits from entertainers or children singing Christmas carols as well as only seeing family and friends when they were wearing masks.

“However, with no restrictions in place this year, it is so good to know care homes are once again filled with Christmas festivities, chatter and laughter.

“From welcoming back their local communities to seeing old friends, care homes can once again fully embrace the festive spirit.”

Not all residents have had the opportunity to celebrate Christmas restriction-free.

Government guidance says there should not usually be restrictions on visits in or out of the home, and where there is a coronavirus outbreak residents should be able have one visitor at a time at a minimum.

The Relatives & Residents Association said its helpline is still being contacted about restricted visiting, closures due to outbreaks of illness, and residents’ human rights not being respected, with families feeling “powerless and voiceless”.

Director Helen Wildbore said: “These examples are a heart-warming reminder of what joyful places care homes can be.

“Sadly, this won’t be the case for everyone, in homes that are still restricting visitors, either due to an outbreak of Covid or other illness, or a failure to follow government guidance.

“The care minister promised two months ago she would ‘fix’ this.

“For some older people this will be their last Christmas so change can’t come soon enough. There shouldn’t be a postcode lottery on love and joy at Christmas.”