Caring for those home alone at Christmas is ‘what it’s all about’

Caring for those home alone at Christmas is ‘what it’s all about’

Pictured, from left, Donna Burns, Area Manager, Connected Health West, Teresa McAuley and Marie Corr, both from Ballymurphy, and Karen McKee, Senior Care Assistant, Connected Health West.

Spreading a little happiness with people who live home alone is what Christmas is all about, says Connected Health Area Manager Donna Burns.

Tending to the needs of Connected Health service users in the community is what Donna’s team of homecare workers do everyday in West Belfast.

At this time of year however, the loneliness of many of her team’s service users is more acute. Many feel more alone and vulnerable, and often have no-one to celebrate Christmas Day with. It is at this time of need when home carers come into a league of their own, making sure to spread a little Christmas cheer for those who need it most.

The Connected Health home care team works 365 days a year. Donna, leads a team of  60 carers, covering West Belfast from Castle Street to Lenadoon .

“It’s a huge area and we do have quite a lot of service users who find themselves alone or lonely, who don’t have family and don’t have anyone to call on them on Christmas day.

“For many of our service users, their home carer is the only person they see and interact with. They do become like family and our individual carers are very fond of their service users,” says Donna.

Donna and her team go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure Christmas Day is special for those living alone.

“The carers will be taking note of who will be on their own throughout the year and they will go the extra mile to make sure they are cared for,” explains Donna who lives in Cavehill.

Carers will have six or seven clients to tend to in the morning. Many of the morning calls are about assisting clients with their personal care, providing medication reminders, making breakfast and ensuring they are safe, warm and in good health. Carers often do simple tasks like assisting with shopping from the supermarket. Often, they will notice a client is low on something – milk or bread for example – and go get it for them out of their own pocket. They basically become like family,” says Donna. 

Donna is one of a core team of home carers who will be visiting clients on Christmas Day. Many of them will have gone out of their way to ensure that anyone, living on their own, has a Christmas Day dinner, cooking it themselves and bringing it out. The most important gift they bring however is the gift of their time.

“We like to make sure everyone gets a visit, that we spend time with them and make sure they know they are not alone on Christmas,” says Donna.

Karen McKee is a Senior Carer in the Connected Health West team and a driving force in ensuring everyone has someone to share Christmas Day with.

Donna says: “Karen often goes above and beyond. She is the person who gets the team together and talks about who needs extra help or time over the festive period. It is notable at this time of year that clients do get down and do feel a little lonelier. Karen plays an important role in ensuring someone is there for each and every person in our care,” adds Donna.

“When you see people every day you develop a special bond and they do become like family.

“If I could bring all my clients to my home for Christmas Day I would,” says Donna.