While Christmas is a time that will see many people clocking off from work, colleagues at care homes across the UK will be in during the festive period to ensure residents and their visitors have a perfect Christmas.
Care home cook Steve Sims has worked every Christmas Day for the last two decades cooking nearly 2,000 Christmas dinners for residents.
The big-hearted chef, 52, serves up around 80 meals each year for those living at the Bupa Queensmount home in Bournemouth, as well as their visiting families and friends.
Steve said: “It’s a cliché but it doesn’t feel like work and it’s a privilege to be able to give people a nice day with their families. For lots of our residents it’s not easy to get out and about, so we make sure Christmas comes to them.”
One memorable year for Steve was when he was approached by an elderly lady asking if he would be able to use her Christmas pudding recipe to help her relive her past years.
“She was delighted with the result, and said it brought back lots of fond Christmas memories,” he said.
In previous years Steve’s wife Sarah, 43, who also works in a care home, has come in to the Queensmount home and helped Steve dish out his Christmas dinners. After they finish work, the pair spend the evening at home together.
Meanwhile Will Smith, 61, Chef Manager at Bupa’s Abbotsleigh Mews care home in Sidcup, is expecting more than 150 guests on Christmas Day, as residents, their family and friends come to spend Christmas together.
While cooking for so many guests might prove dauting for some, with nearly two decades of experience under his belt, Will’s confident that this year will be the best yet.
Will said: “Christmas is a really special time for me and I want our residents to enjoy it too. As chef manager at the care home, I make sure that everyone gets a full Christmas lunch with all the trimmings. There’s a bit of pressure to get it right but after 19 years I’ve had nothing but compliments, so I must be doing something right!”
Elsewhere colleagues who work across Bupa St George’s in Cobham have racked up nearly 30 consecutive Christmas Days between them.
Jackie Stovell, 56, is Head of Housekeeping at Bupa St George’s in Cobham. She’ll be working her 19th Christmas, as she makes sure that everything at the home runs smoothly, including setting up for the home’s signature Christmas lunch.
Jackie said: “Lots of people ask whether I miss being with my family on Christmas Day. I tell them that, having worked for Bupa for 25 years, the residents are my extended family. It’s a privilege to get to see them and make sure that they have a special day too. Even if I just help put a smile on one of their faces then it’ll be worth it.”
Shirani Mitchinson, 60, will be working her 10th consecutive Christmas at Bupa St. George’s. In her role as Laundry Assistant, she’ll be ensuring the home is clean and comfortable as well as looking after residents.
Shirani said: “I love Christmas and think it’s a pleasure to spend it with our residents. There’s a great atmosphere at the home and I love to see everyone get involved with the games and entertainment. While some people might not like to think about work over Christmas, I think I’m lucky to be a part of it.”
At the nearby Bupa Sutton Lodge in Weybridge, Andrea Colyer, 43, will be working her 11th consecutive Christmas. In her role as Kitchen Assistant she will make sure that everything at the home runs smoothly, including setting up for the home’s signature Christmas lunch.
Andrea said: “It’s really lovely to spend the day with residents and make sure they’re having a great Christmas. As well as the residents, we welcome their family and friends, and even other members of the local community, so there’s a lovely festive feel.”
Rebekah Shury, 54, will be working her fourth consecutive Christmas. In her role as Care Assistant, she’ll be ensuring that all residents are well looked after, and that they’re enjoying the day’s activities.
Rebekah added: “I love Christmas. There’s such a warm atmosphere at the home with the residents and all their guests. Likewise the staff all get involved too, it’s a busy day but lots of fun! It’s lovely to see the smile on everyone’s faces – it’s a Christmas gift in itself!”
Joan Elliott, Managing Director of Bupa Care Homes, said: “All these colleagues are a credit to the company and have helped make Christmas special for so many people over the years.
“Every year we’ve hundreds of colleagues doing the same, and I’d like to thank them all for their hard work and commitment.”
As well catering for residents and their families, Bupa care homes across the UK will be opening their doors as part of Community Christmas, a charity initiative designed to reduce loneliness amongst older people.