Five incredible people who dedicate their lives to others on Christmas Day
Every year when we sit down for our Christmas dinner with loved ones, it’s easy to forget that many others are still going about their business as usual – either working or volunteering.
There’s a whole cohort of people who dedicate their lives to others on the big day – whether it’s nurses, doctors, hospice staff, meal delivery volunteers or other incredible workers.
These people give up time with their own families to ensure that individuals are looked after and provided for.
Laura from North Yorkshire is one of these people. She is a community care support worker for Harrogate Neighbours and has worked on Christmas Day for many years – delivering vital services to vulnerable elderly adults.
Some of her duties include providing support with their daily tasks – including personal care, medication support, administration, cooking and cleaning.
The 30-year-old tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I really enjoy the atmosphere on Christmas Day at work. Knowing that I could be potentially the only person that one of our clients comes in to contact with on Christmas Day is really important to me.
‘I always have my Christmas jumper on for a Christmas Day shift, it always spreads a smile and cheer.’
‘The most rewarding part of working Christmas Day is just going to those in need, who can’t do things for themselves as easily and enabling them to do the things they want – spreading as much festive cheer as possible.’
While Laura says she sometimes feels like she is missing out with her own family, she adds that her loved ones are incredibly supportive – and that she usually spends the rest of the day with her family, after her shift.
‘I have a 10-year-old son who is used to mummy going out to work on Christmas morning, but having a very supportive family has been incredible over the years,’ she adds.
‘We have a good routine. I am usually home around lunch time and we enjoy the rest of our day together.’
Ben Lambert, a palliative medicine doctor for the Myton Hospices in Coventry, has worked twice on Christmas Day previously and will be doing the same this year.
‘As a doctor, we would be on-call for any emergencies and to review patients who may have become unwell or need some medications to be reviewed,’ Ben explains.
‘Being on call on Christmas Eve, I will be available to see anyone with any problems overnight into Christmas morning until 9am.’
Ben says it only feels right to take it in turns working on Christmas Day.
He adds: ‘There are times when you can’t change it and as lots of people want Christmas Day off, it feels only right to share the load sometimes and take your turn – giving colleagues a much-needed break.
‘Everyone keeps each other going and smiling as much as possible in between the sometimes heart-breaking stories our patients and their relatives may be going through, and knowing you can make someone’s Christmas a little easier in a tough situation can make it worthwhile.’
Someone who has previously worked nine Christmas Days, is support worker Georgina Holliday.
She works for learning disability charity Mencap and has been there for 12 years. Her job involves directly supporting people with a learning disability.
‘Doing the job I do, I am very involved in someone’s life any other day and I want to be just as involved in their Christmas, too,’ the 41-year-old tells Metro.co.uk.
‘I’ve always wanted to be a part of their Christmas. It’s my world, not just my job.
‘The people we support are the reason why I’ve always worked Christmas Day over the years. They don’t have close family nearby and that’s our role to make sure their lives are fulfilled and to enjoy Christmas.’
Georgina’s shift starts at around 3pm by which point most individuals have had their dinner – so she organises games or watches Christmas TV with them.
She adds: ‘I also comfort those who are melancholy about the season.
‘Apart from one person I support, everyone stays at the service. One person I support has family who live in Scotland and isn’t able to see them so it can be quite sad for them.
‘It just feels special to be a part of someone’s traditions on Christmas.’
Palliative care nurse Sophie Peach, who supports end of life patients, agrees that she feels it’s vital to be there for individuals – especially as, for some of them, it might be their last Christmas.
The 27-year-old from Derbyshire, who works at Ashgate Hospice, says: ‘I think it is important for us to go above and beyond to help people make memories every day – but particularly at this time of year.
‘Sadly, for a lot of our patients, this may be their last Christmas. I can’t possibly imagine how that must feel for them and their loved ones.
‘For some families we support, Christmas is full of festivities, laughter and fun – but we see the other side too, which always puts everything into perspective.
‘Throughout the day I’ll experience the sadness and pain of people who just can’t get into the Christmas spirit because of what they’re going through. Sometimes it is simply about getting through the day, which is so important for us to acknowledge.
‘It is just a very emotional time, so it’s important that we do what we can to make sure people have special and positive moments and memories. Not only to make sure they have a wonderful time now, but also so that people have something to hold on to and remember forever.’
Sophie who has previously worked Christmas Day three times, says that while it can be tough missing her own family time, she’s proud of how the hospice is there for patients when they need it most.
She adds: ‘It’s sad that I’m going to miss precious time with my own family, the restrictions last year meant we didn’t get a “normal” Christmas then either.
‘But I’m really proud that regardless of what time of year it is the hospice is still there for people going through the worst possible time.
‘Whether it’s someone to cry to and let it all out, for advice on medication or even a Christmas carol sing-a-long down the phone – I will be there to support the families who need us in whatever way I can.
‘Christmas really makes you appreciate what you have, and I am privileged to witness patients celebrating and laughing with loved ones despite all their heartaches and issues.’
Of course, it’s not just humans that need care on Christmas Day.
Every year, Susie Winship works as an animal welfare assistant at Blue Cross in Suffolk on December 25 – caring for the dogs and cats in the shelter.
This will be her seventh Christmas Day working at the centre.
‘Christmas Day is quite different to other days, it’s really lovely in that it’s solely dedicated to the animals,’ Susie tells Metro.co.uk.
‘There’s no public on site, there are no phone calls there are no emails, it is literally a case that we can dedicate 100% of our time to the animals, which we really love – whether it’s spending loads of time and socialising with the cats, or getting out on a really lovely group dog walk, and going a bit further afield that we normally have time to do.
‘Every animal gets a little stocking of treats. One of our supervisors goes around first thing and puts them outside their kennel or cat pen, we are really lucky that we get donated so much – particularly around Christmas.
‘So there are lots of toys and treats and the cats are always completely off their heads on catnip having a great time – it’s just a lovely day.’
Susie says the team get to choose which festive bank holiday they want to work and she always picks Christmas Day.
Then, when she finishes her 8.30am-5pm shift, she heads to her mum’s house for Christmas dinner in the evening.
‘For me it’s definitely the best of both worlds – I get to do the part of my job that I love the most and then I get to go home and all the Christmas dinner has already been cooked and all the hard work is done,’ Susie adds.
‘We also get the same volunteers coming up and working with us every year as well – so we are all used to having our Christmas together. Then we have a nice lunch break together, where we have lots of choccies and goodies.
‘I can’t really remember Christmas before that – it’s my tradition now.’
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