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How to enhance Christmas cheer on hospital wards

At Christmas, 'infection control departments' within many hospitals will ban decorations in the bay areas of wards (where the beds are located). With bleak, bitter weather outside the windows, the atmosphere for patients confined to their beds, or a chair by the bedside, can feel dull and depressing. Relatives, seeking to cheer up their loved ones, often struggle to create a bit of Christmas spirit when their surroundings are devoid of any seasonal cheer.

Of course, everyone needs to be careful. No one wants to increase the risk of anyone getting an infection from old, much used, decorations contaminating a sterile area. But, life is beset with problems and, with a bit of imagination, there is often a way of finding a Plan B.

To be fair, some hospitals take a slightly more relaxed view and allow 'real' Christmas trees and brand new decorations that haven’t been around long enough to get dirty. Generally children’s wards, mindful of the psychological lift that cheerful décor can bring to a ward, take an even more liberal view.

But, if a hospital is of the more cautious variety, there are still things you can do to bring colour and style to a ward, without running the risk of a serious case of tinsilitis.

For example…

Local carol singers(schoolchildren or adults) can not only lift the spirits of patients with their music, they also remind patients, some of whom may not get any visitors, that the local community has not forgotten about them. If norovirus closes wards, why not suggest that the carol singers sing outside the ward block or in reception areas. After all, carol singers traditionally sing outside. Well wrapped up in thick coats and scarves and holding lanterns, they could delight patients who could listen to them through a partially open ward window, especially if their ward was on the ground floor. They also cheer up relatives who may be feeling equally fraught.

Wearing bright festive clothing often brings a smile. A jumper featuring a snowman etc, festive jewellery, a bright glittery top, or simply wearing a santa hat can bring a smile to a loved one.

And why not ask if you can bring in a new Christmas stocking for the end of the bed and then, every time you visit, you can add a simple present. Nothing of any monetary value, but something to intrigue, especially if it’s an unusual shape.

If there is someone in the bay who doesn’t get any visitors, why not think about bringing in one for them too and then adding a few little bits and pieces when you are filling your loved one’s (as long as you check with staff first and no one is offended).

As there is very little space around a bed, care needs to be taken when bringing in presents. Something bright and colourful and festive can help raise morale. A cheerful shawl for a lady is always a good idea as it can ‘dress up’ a tired looking nightdress and can easily be pulled on or off depending on the temperature.

Make sure all the staff know when classic Christmas films, and classic TV Christmas favourites, are on the television. Put up a notice reminding everyone what is on each day. Older people with memory problems may feel comforted by the familiar words and the music, even if it is only background music. Visitors can also enjoy watching a film, or a TV classic, with their loved ones. And it can help put everyone in a festive mood.

a kaleidoscope light will cover a ceiling or a wall with beautiful swirling colours. These can be bought, at a reasonable price, from many department stores. The kit might need to be Portable Appliance Tested by the hospital (to ensure it is electrically safe) Though, if it’s new it might pass without the test.

And finally, taking time to visit someone in hospital means more than any of the above. So don’t just think about visiting, actually do it. You may be frantically busy at this time of year, but you will feel better about yourself if you actually take the time to make a difference to someone else.

Jill Fraser

Jill Fraser

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