Caring at Christmas
Christmas is an extra special time for residents in care homes. “Reminiscence activities, such as making decorations and baking, or singing carols, all add to the festive atmosphere and increase well being – especially for those residents who may have dementia,” says Care UK’s food and hotel services director, Jon Bicknell.
The build-up to Christmas Day is just as important as the day itself. “At the beginning of December we add numerous festive twists to our menus, as well as serving mince pies and getting the residents involved in preparing mulled wine,” explains Scott Moore, head chef at Care UK’s Ferndown Manor care home.
What to do
• Hold a party – invite family and friends of residents to come along and enjoy a buffet of sandwiches, pork pies, quiches and of course mince pies! This will be extra special for those residents who may not be able to see family on Christmas Day. Have party games or book a singer to entertain the residents with songs of a bygone era.
• Decorate the premises – everyone loves to trim up the tree so why not encourage residents to help? And paper chains are an easy, fun decoration to make so you could involve residents in making those too
• Make Christmas pudding – get residents involved in making the Christmas pudding
• Invite the community – schools, local communities and choirs are always willing to visit residential homes to help celebrate the occasion by entertaining and talking to residents
The day itself
Before dinner is served make sure residents have a memorable morning. A nice touch is to make sure every resident has a present under the tree to open. And depending on the time lunch is
served, mince pies and a sherry (those whose diet allow it) aperitif to stimulate the appetite is a nice mid-morning treat. Or why not serve small canapés such as brie and cranberry vol-au-vents, mini chicken Caesar and smoked salmon and cream cheese?
How to start
“Traditionally a prawn cocktail is regarded as a special event starter and always proves popular with residents,” explained Andrew Mussett, regional support chef for Care UK’s Suffolk homes.
What to serve
• Modernise the classic prawn cocktail by adding an avocado, coriander and lime salsa
• Butternut squash soup with a slight hint of cumin is popular with residents who don’t like seafood
• Florida cocktail or melon fan with red berry sauce is visually attractive and helps to cleanse the palate before the main course
Turkey all the way
In most care homes, Christmas dinner is made up of traditional roast turkey with pigs in blankets, sage and onion stuffing and cranberry sauce on the side. “Turkey is a tasty and succulent meat, and it evokes memories for the residents of their happy family days,” adds Scott. However, for those residents who don’t like turkey or can’t eat it, meat such as gammon is offered, plus a fish option, such as seabass or salmon and a vegetarian one meal for non meat and fish eaters.
Experiment with sides
“The correct vegetable selection is crucial in providing a good Christmas dinner,” adds Scott. Where possible, steam all vegetables to give them the best texture and retain all of the vitamins and
What to serve?
• Sweet flavours such as braised candied red cabbage with apple, dried fruit and mixed sweet spices appeals to residents’ taste buds
• Brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts give the meal a very Christmassy feel
• Parsnips are a traditional favourite – par boil then roast until they are crisp and season and glaze with honey
Roast potatoes are a highlight of the Christmas meal. “We add rosemary, garlic and butter to our roast potatoes,” said David Burfoot, head chef at Care UK’s Brook Court care home. “The size of the potato is very important because some residents like a small portion so I use one normal size potato cut into six. That way, residents can have as many as they desire.”
Room for dessert
Christmas pudding with brandy sauce is a traditional, and popular choice. However, for those residents who want a lighter option fresh fruit salad and gateaux are a perfect choice as they are food which residents identify with a celebration.
The festive season can be a challenge for residents living with an illness or dietary requirement. Here’s how with a little thought you can help to make their Christmas special too:
Residents living with dementia
• Plates – avoid heavy patterns because residents will think it is food. Use a solid colour plate to help make the food stand out and easier to see.
• Table settings – keep it simple with a waterless floral centrepiece.
• Candles – use only as decoration and do not light as the flame can distract some people from their food.
• Crackers – remove (if possible) the banger as sudden loud noises or surprises are not advised.
• Cutlery – set the table as you go. A table laid with multiple forks, knifes and spoons can be confusing.
Residents living with dysphagia
• Don’t overwhelm them – too much food can be a tiring process.
• Correct appearance – make sure the food you serve looks the same as the food served to residents on a normal diet