Memories of Christmas Day with Dad in his nursing home

I'll never forget all the people there and how special they made us feel

Becky Field avatar

by Becky Field |

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My dad spent the last four years of his life in the Warberries Nursing Home in Torquay, Devon, England, suffering from Huntington’s disease. He’d been moved there when his ability to swallow and his speech had deteriorated.

The building was a Victorian Grade II listed manor house with many original features still in place, including a grand hall with intricate ornate cornicing around its ceilings and a beautifully detailed, carved, wooden staircase and landing area. It had a grand conservatory. It was impressive, but still homely and cozy, set within large grounds high in the hills above Torquay, with stunning views of the town and harbor. It had a large terrace, overlooking a mature garden.

A lady played piano beautifully in the grand hall, despite her advanced Alzheimer’s. The sound would greet us when we arrived. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the local secondary school choir would come to the home and sing carols for the residents and staff. A local brass band would perform Christmas songs. Lots of effort went into decorating the home for the holiday, with a huge Christmas tree in the main hall, covered in colorful baubles and lights. The residents could take part in decorating the home for Christmas, Christmas coloring, and crafts.

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‘One big family’

We drove down to visit Dad on Christmas Day. There were a few unpredictable drivers on the road, who looked like they may have had a few too many Christmas drinks already!

We took chocolates for the staff, which they shared. The home gave visitors mince pies and cups of tea. Christmas songs played on loop on the TV. All the residents got a card and a present. There were crackers and the obligatory Christmas paper hats! Dad had a pureed sherry, which he seemed to enjoy to our surprise. He hadn’t ever been a fan of alcohol before.

Some residents were quite lonely; some didn’t have any visitors and they appreciated seeing new faces they could chat to. Some really became more alert and lucid with fresh stimulation. Lots of them loved my dad. He was a firm favourite with residents and staff alike. The residents would ask me why he didn’t speak to them. I would tell them he would have loved to, but he couldn’t.

We became one big family. I will never forget them all and how special they made us feel. It was a heartwarming way to spend Christmas Day, a reminder of the most important gift of all — to love and be loved.

Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.


Darlene Wilt avatar

Darlene Wilt

I have memories of spending time with my husband in the nursing home. It makes me incredibly sad that people have to go through this. He spend the last 3 years of his life in a nursing home. Thankfully his mom was still able to visit and help me with visits. We rotated evenings and took him meals etc. Hopeful for a cure soon.

Becky Field avatar

Becky Field

Hi Darlene, it makes me sad too. Sounds like you did an amazing job, caring your husband. Praying for a cure.

Patty Garwig avatar

Patty Garwig

God Bless you, Becky. Thank you for expressing your story in such a positive light. It was uplifting to me, a wife caregiver of my husband who is on the late stages of HD. We have two sons too in their twenties. Keeping the faith for them and praying for research to speed up and go in a positive direction. Thank you.

Becky Field avatar

Becky Field

Dear Patty, thank you. Sounds like you have a great positive mind set to live by and I too pray the research and trials deliver some good results this year.


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