Merry Christmas!

I’m very grateful for this great guest blog from Sarah.

Sarah, who lives in Yorkshire, is a poet,a spoken word entertainer, inspirational speaker and drama-based trainer in the (sometimes tricky) subject of Dementia. She is also a qualified life coach but prefers the term “useful chat” to “coaching”. She cares for her own disabled son full time, is a Grandma to three (soon to be four) rowdy children, is addicted to Coronation Street and is totally dependent on a well maintained diary and her never ending To Do list.

Sarah lives in Yorkshire and has been providing short breaks through Shared Lives for a year. She knows what a fantastic service this can be because her own son has used Shared Lives for his own short breaks in the past. Sarah writes:

Christmas seems to be a bit like a popular yeast extract spread; loved or loathed.

Just mention the C word to anyone and it’s almost guaranteed to receive one of two responses. Either “Oh it’s too early”, “can’t afford it”, “hate bloody Christmas” and other negative (almost visceral) reactions or the opposite response of the starry eyed, wistful “Oh I LOVE Christmas”, “I can’t wait”, “such a wonderful time of year”.

However we feel about it, we will navigate life a lot more easily when we accept that others opinions do not always match our own.

I have had to learn to love Christmas, my son loves it so life is easier if I do too. When I say he loves it, I mean he REALLY loves it. He has a Santa duvet cover, He has snowmen in his bedroom, he listens to Christmas music on repeat twenty four hours a day, we keep a countdown to Christmas poster in the kitchen. You may be thrilled (or horrified) to know that we have a mere one hundred and thirty sleeps to wait until we can open our presents and set fire to that pudding.

One of our Shared lives links was a match made in heaven for us. We have a Shared Lives visitor who loves Christmas. He brought his own festive bedding with him (there was no need we had plenty!). He plays Santa Claus is coming to town on repeat (genuinely not annoying where the entire family has become completely immune to living in a Bing Crosby background noise environment).

On one particular visit he took it upon himself to take all the decorations out of their storage and put them up. It was June. We had a tree up. He did a sterling job too: Every bauble, fairy light, Christmas wind up musical item, bunting, holly, mistletoe, ornaments. all displayed with expert care, ready to surprise me with.

Deciding to adopt a “if you can’t beat them- join them” attitude, I joined in and so did my son. We all donned a Santa hat and got stuck in, tweaking the lights, adding the tinsel, singing carols, talking about what we hoped Christmas would bring us all this year. We talked and listened and laughed and at one point I sat back and just stopped to enjoy the moment, to commit it to memory, to drink in the fun and the pure joy. I am not embarrassed to admit feeling a little emotional- I suppose Christmas is a nostalgic time of year.

Neither of these young men were glued to their iPads, neither was sitting in their head phones drowning out human communication, they were both engaged, connected, happy and relaxed.

Later that night I was trying to navigate the darkness of my bedroom as my early-rising husband had gone to sleep ages before me. As I fumbled around the end of the bed trying to locate my Pyjamas, I felt something unfamiliar. made of fabric, with beads/ buttons on. I managed to find the torch on my mobile- there in the beam I see that our guest had really had done a thorough job: it was a Christmas stocking hanging on the end of my bed.

This is just one of the many aspects I love about Shared Lives. We have the freedom to connect with people in a way which truly makes sense to them, on this occasion, it made sense to us too. Our customers have the freedom to not only be at the heart of what we do but to actually lead the way we do it.

I have often heard Shared Lives carers talk about how much they learn through their roles and I second that with a great big “YAY” as I raise my glass of sherry and ( whether you love it or loathe it) wish you all a very merry Christmas.

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