Meet Charlii, an enthusiastic Activities Coordinator at Pratt House dementia-friendly residential care home. We spoke to Charlii about what it's like to work at Pratt House during Christmas.

Tell us a bit about your background

I started with Abbeyfield over 5 years ago having never worked in care before. I began providing care at home and since doing my first round I haven’t looked back.

I had a bad car accident about a year into working at Abbeyfield which knocked my confidence in driving, that’s when I applied for a position at Pratt House and this is where I’ve been ever since. Again, I started providing care but now I do the activities and have done for nearly 3 years – which I love just as much!  

A typical day working at Pratt House for me is always busy, fun and extremely rewarding. I laugh a lot – we all do. 

What is the atmosphere at the house like around Christmas?

The atmosphere in Pratt House is always lovely, especially at Christmas time! All the staff work really hard to make it special for the residents each year, we decorate the house with lots of glitter and lights, and one tree is never enough!

We always get a real tree, which the residents love to decorate. Last year we even won a competition for best decorated front entrance. There are always Christmas carols on, which we all love to sing and dance to. 

We usually throw a Christmas party for friends and family to attend, we’d have food, music and games, and we always do a Christmas raffle!

On Christmas Day, the residents all get a present delivered by nobody other than Santa Claus himself! Seeing their faces light up is what it’s all about. The residents have shown me that you’re never too old to get excited for Christmas. 

I think the true meaning of Christmas is happiness. 

What do you like about working over the festive period? And what is your favourite part about it?

I truly love everything about working through the Christmas period, everyone is always so jolly! My favourite part about it has always been the Christmas party, it’s so lovely watching the residents enjoy time with their friends and family while having some nibbles and a tipple. I love bringing people together, which is, of course, a lot tougher now.

What are the main challenges of working over Christmas?

The biggest challenge for me at Christmas is being a single mum to my daughter. When it’s the school holidays, I have to rely on other people to look after her so I can continue to work through them. 

Do you usually see family or bring family to the home at Christmas to spend with the residents?

I always see my family on Christmas Day, that’s what it’s all about! I’ve worked a few Christmas mornings before which has been lovely because I genuinely look at our residents like family, so I get to see all 25 of my pretend ‘grandparents’ on Christmas Day… and that’s pretty special.

How will this Christmas be different for you, the team and the residents?

This Christmas is going to be very different for all staff and residents. It’s going to be different for the staff because we’re all having to work a lot harder, especially the activity team, to ensure the residents stay in touch with friends and family as much as possible through this very surreal time, thankfully we have great technology these days, so that does help. 

For the residents, seeing their loved ones over Skype or FaceTime is absolutely wonderful and quite exciting for some of them, but it will never be able to replace the warmth of a hug. I look forward to the day they can enjoy that again.

Do you run any special activities at this time of year? If so, what do you do?

I would usually be booking Christmas themed productions and animal visits for the residents at this time of year, as well as taking them out to grottos, and for coffee and a mince pie. As I can’t do any of that this year, as a team, we’re improvising and we’re going to be doing our own play and nativity. We can’t have the residents missing out can we?! 

It wouldn’t be Christmas at Abbeyfield without my wonderful, kind, compassionate team or our amazing, funny and loving residents.

What’s your favourite Abbeyfield Christmas memory?

I’ll never forget receiving a gift from one resident, it was my first year in doing care at home and a very special lady handed me a tiny little drawstring bag that fit in the palm of my hand.

Inside it had;

  • a rubber – to make the little mistakes go away
  • 5 pence – so you’re never completely broke
  • a marble – for those days when you have lost yours
  • a piece of elastic – to help stretch beyond your means
  • string – to hold it all together
  • And finally, a chocolate treat (shaped like a heart) – to remind you that someone cares for you. 

She picked it up at church and wanted me to have it, I just thought it was the sweetest thing. 

Please note: All photos with residents were taken in previous years, before the coronavirus pandemic.