Meet Alisha Cordy, one of our dedicated Housing Officer's at sheltered housing facility, Ivy House in Wellington. Alisha tells us all about what it's like to work at Ivy House during Christmas.

Tell us a bit about your background

I have worked at Abbeyfield’s Ivy House for 7 years now having started in November 2013. I wanted a job in a caring setting after I had been caring for my Mum, who had Parkinson's and Dementia. I felt I needed a job that involved working with people and this job luckily fell into lap!

What’s a typical day at Ivy House like for you?

Before the pandemic, my day consisted of checking up on each and every one of my 25 residents.

Each resident is very different. Some like a brief chat, others like me to go in and spend some time talking about what has happened over the last few weeks. More than anything, I absolutely LOVE hearing my residents’ life stories. It’s so interesting to hear about the lives they have lived, the world during the war and their incredible stories.

My job is a real 'feel good' job. I always tell people how much I love it, just making someone a cup of tea is so appreciated and that’s a great feeling. If I can make someone smile then I know I have done a good job.

I always want to be there for my residents whether I am working or not. I truly care for every person that lives at Ivy House.

What is the atmosphere at the house like around Christmas?

The atmosphere at Christmas is lovely, it’s about all coming together and having a lovely time.

I have worked on Christmas Day the majority of the year’s I have been at Ivy House, but I really don’t mind as I know some residents don't have friends or family, and that me and the team are the only ones to see them on Christmas Day. I usually wear a Christmas jumper and some reindeer antlers to greet residents in their flats. I may even burst into song – which is never a good idea with my voice!

A big challenge of working over Christmas is not being able to bring a handful of residents who don’t get up to much, home with me.

The true meaning of Christmas is being with your loved ones, feeling happy and loved.

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

I have three children who I have spent Christmas Day at Ivy House with me and the residents in the past, they used to hand over a bag of sweets wrapped up for the residents. The residents do like seeing children over Christmas.

My kids have grown up now, so it isn’t quite the same! I like working Christmas Day as my kids have to wait longer to wait to open their presents AND as I'm at work, I get out of prepping the Christmas dinner to spend time with the wonderful people at Ivy House!

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

This Christmas will be completely different, I imagine a lot of residents will not be going out to their families as they usually would, which is terribly sad.

We will be bringing everyone mince pies and cream on Christmas Day to try and spread a little Christmas cheer.

I focus a lot on kindness. It really doesn’t take a second to be kind or say something. I really hope my residents feel like they can talk to me about anything, or ask me to help them no matter what.

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

Last year we did lots during December. We usually set a date in our diary on a Saturday to put up our decorations in our communal lounge. During which we will eat, drink and listen to Christmas music. This year myself and the team will be doing this.

I would usually arrange for as many residents as possible to go to our local golf club and have a Christmas dinner together, which is always very popular and enjoyable. It’s a shame we won’t be able to that that this year – maybe next year we can make up for it and have double the food!

We once had a donkey we sponsor from the Donkey Sanctuary visit us, the residents loved that. Everyone would normally enjoy a great performance from our local operatic society too. This is always a winner as lots of the residents join in – seeing them sing along really makes my heart happy.

Wellington Majorettes have also visited in the past, giving us our own personal display and letting the residents have a go on the instruments. The children from the pre-school just across the road from have also visited for a sing-a-long before – a few of them were not behaving which really made the residents laugh!

What’s your favourite Abbeyfield Christmas memory?

One of my favourite Christmas memories was having a resident who was blind, come down to the communal lounge to greet the Christmas donkey. Honestly, her face was a picture when she felt the donkeys face. You could have lit the room up with it. Those moments are so special – they make me realise how much of a difference I am making.

It wouldn't be Christmas at Abbeyfield without love and care. Many people struggle on Christmas and I feel it’s my job to make them feel wanted, loved and cared for.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever been given or given to someone else?

This year I got one of my residents a poinsettia – last year he bought me one. When I took it in his flat he looked at me with astonishment, his mouth was wide open, I said, ‘There you go, I picked this up for you’ he replied with ‘Oh my goodness, you read my mind, I was thinking this morning I needed to get one and that one is the most beautiful one I have ever seen!’ His face made it worth every penny.

Name three words that best describe Christmas at Abbeyfield for you.

Family, love, togetherness.