A touching interview with our Quarry House Santa, John

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Bristol Care Homes Quarry House Fishponds BS16 John

John, our wonderful Senior Carer at Quarry House, our care home in Fishponds, Bristol, has been featured on Christmas Day in a BBC article called “The unsung heroes keeping the West running on Christmas Day“. And we are glad to be sharing with you the complete interview given by John.

Why did you feel it was important to take on your role?

I have been caring for others for a very long time and to me it basically comes down to experience. I can understand that people have problems throughout their life and that’s why I have been working all my life in care. I am passionate about what I do. Passion, it doesn’t come like that. I have done this job for 21 and a half years and I know that at the end of the day when I go home, if the residents and carers have been looked after and everyone is safe then I know it’s been a good day.

What are your typical duties/ responsibilities?

I am a senior carer; I oversee the other main carers on the unit. I am also a meds giver. I can also step up as a team leader when needed. Moreover, I am the Manual Handling Trainer for Quarry House part of the Bristol Care Homes group, and a champion for Sirona.

Do these responsibilities change over the festive period?

No, they are still the same. My main role is still to look after the residents as we offer person-centered care. I have been dressed up as Father Christmas for the last 4 years, for which I get a protected time of 2 hours on Christmas Day. This means that over the 2 hours in which I become Father Christmas, my other responsibilities are covered by other colleagues.

During this time, I get the joy of going over all floors here at Quarry House care home in Fishponds, Bristol to visit the residents in bed, connect with them, give them their gifts, and take a few photos with them. Then I go in the lounge, where I continue my journey as Father Christmas for the residents who are not bed-bound and can be in the lounge, sometimes with their families.

I can’t think of doing anything else at Christmas. All people like to be home at Christmas, but sometimes, like in the case of some of our residents, this is not possible. So, for me, being able to give that little bit of joy to our residents and make them really feel at home at Quarry House is priceless. I always make sure to take a photo with each resident, being them in bed or in the lounge. We then laminate the photos and give them as a gift to each resident.

Are there different things you need to accommodate or arrange for your residents? Perhaps family visits or festive games, etc.

No, I just ask for the 2 hours-protected time. All staff members in the home are aware that I will be off my normal duty for 2 hours and my team members can cover my responsibilities during that time.

The Activities Team organises various activities that take place every single day at Quarry House. December is more special as most activities have a festive theme, but we also still do our usual trips to various venues in and around Bristol, lunches at the pubs, exercise sessions, etc. All residents get a copy of our monthly printed activities calendar before December starts.

We put Christmas films on, we singalong to Christmas carols, we have our yearly Christmas party and pantomime, etc. The activities team and all staff do their best to make everything nice and happy for the residents. Some residents will miss their families, so we will do everything to bring them joy and feel Quarry House is just another home away from home. We also get family visits; the home is open to relatives who want to join us at any moment and for any activity.

How long have you been a care worker?

I started care in 1999 working in the Psychiatric Unit at Blackberry Hill Hospital for 8 and a half years. For the first 2 years, I worked in a 25-bed high-dependency unit, and then for 6 and a half years I worked in a 7-bed high-dependency unit. From there I went to another care home in Bristol. In 2016, I joined the team at Quarry House care home in Bristol, Fishponds, and I have been here since then. And I will stay here until I can. I am in my 70s now and still love the work that I do, but I know at some point the time will come when I will want or need to slow down a bit.

What does a typical Christmas Day look like?

We come in, most of us wear Christmas hats, we have Christmas music playing, and all Christmas decorations are up already – we usually put these on with our residents and some of their families at the beginning of December. We are not in a rush to get people up and ready because we have 24-hour care. Even though it’s such a special day, we do our normal duties. For example, we get ready the residents that will go out and join their families for Christmas.

For the residents not going home, we make sure we spend time with them, we sing carols together, have a laugh, play games, and open presents, and cards. They can even have a little drink on this day, plus crackers. Christmas here is very nice.

We also organise a Christmas dinner where Mihaela, our head chef prepares a wonderful 3-course meal with options to choose from. We usually have 6 – 8 tables. Our residents and some of their families who join us for dinner will get to choose what they prefer. Mihaela comes out and speaks to everyone, and takes any special or food requirements, it is truly beautiful.

I of course dress up as Father Christmas and take my journey to visit everyone. In the evening, we have buffet food, we put on a Christmas film, we relax, and we make everything very “homey”. Sometimes we also play games. And for the people who are bed-bound, we make sure we go into their rooms, spend time with them, talk, and connect.

What kind of hours do care workers work over the festive period and on Christmas Day specifically?

Our care is 24 hours a day and this is kept during the festive times as well. For example, my typical day starts at 8 in the morning and finishes at 8 in the evening. And then night carers start at 8 in the evening and finish at 8 in the morning. On Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we just do the same. So, no one needs to overwork or do extra hours during this period, unless they wish to.

What is the best/ most rewarding thing about working on Christmas Day?

Seeing the smiles of our residents on their faces. Especially, getting a smile out of someone who maybe usually doesn’t smile is just priceless. You can see the joy in their eyes.

I know most of the residents by name. The advantage of working on all floors is that you get to know everyone. And if we have new residents coming in or residents who will only be here for a short while, or only over Christmas, we make sure we treat them the same and make their Christmas time happy.

What is the most difficult/ challenging thing?

I don’t think there are any challenges. It just is what we want to do. It comes with passion; you can’t just say: I’ve done my Christmas day of work and that’s it. It comes with passion; I just love it. There is no exact answer to why, but the happy faces of our residents have to do a lot with it.

We had a resident, 99 years old, and to see her face on Christmas day was amazing. She used to walk around the place, and it was wonderful to see her joy that someone had taken the time to get her a present that she wanted. All our residents’ presents are resident-oriented. So, if they like a pair of pajamas or slippers, that’s what we get them to make sure they feel seen, listened to, and appreciated.

Can you share your favourite memory or anecdote from a past Christmas as a care worker?

For me all memories are valuable. All our residents have various illnesses, and regardless of that, seeing the smile on their faces on Christmas day is the perfect memory. You just can’t beat that. That’s why I do Father Christmas every year. I have been working Christmas Day and Boxing Day for the last 8 years.

Any other interesting details or stories I may not have touched upon – please do share!

I just love what I do. You can’t teach this inner calling to care for others. It can come with lifetime experience and as you grow up you just know; this is what I want to do. And the little things matter so much, even when I make a cup of tea to a team member, I do it wholeheartedly. It’s just what I do. I don’t want any sort of recognition for it, at the end of the day I do it just because I care and that’s all there is to it. If we had Christmas every day, I would do it every day.

In closing, we would like to express our gratitude to John who has been doing such amazing work as a Senior Carer at Quarry House care home, part of Bristol Care Homes, located on Adelaide Place, Channons Hill, Fishponds, Bristol BS16 2ED.

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