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
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.
‘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.
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