In an ideal world, everything would be closed on Christmas Day. Many of you, I believe, will spend the day opening tinselly presents, watching wonderfully imaginative holiday movies and tucking into marbled ribs of sirloin. But for home care workers, Christmas is about caring for others.
Amelia Brown, 32, a care worker in Seattle, will be working two shifts, morning and evening, on Christmas Day, covering a large part of the Fremont. “This will be my third time working on a Christmas Day. I feel I’m very lucky to do what I do.”
As a care worker, most of what Brown deals with are the genuinely ill elderly patients who can be prone to loneliness over the holidays.
“For some people, December 25 is a very emotional day. It might be their first Christmas in care or the first since their only family member has died,” she says.
As the holidays approach, Greg Shulman is thrilled to have Christmas lunch with the residents at a care home where he works. “I would trade bickering over who gets control of the TV remote for a festive lunch with my patients. It’s much more relaxing here.”
While it’s quieter than normal at the hospice, it’s still very much busier than usual.
Greg will be working a 12-hour night shift this year. “It’s a privilege to be here.”
Unlike some of the care workers, this would be Tara Miller’s first Christmas away from home, keeping others safe and healthy. “I volunteered. Some elderly patients have family who visit them on Christmas Day, but for others, it’s the care workers who’re their family.”
If Miller wasn’t working, she’d spend the day at home, enjoying eating and drinking. “If I’m lucky, I’ll get back to open the presents with my four-year-old munchkin, Amber.”
It’s all a part of the job for the home care worker, Miller is set to miss her daughter open presents from Santa. “Nobody really wants to work on Christmas Day. But it’s a job, someone has to do it, and the money isn’t bad either,” she says.
It is the nature of a healthcare service role to work shifts on Christmas Day. But it’s equally lonely and demanding for them to stay positive during the holiday season. These are the challenges carers face, sometimes due to a combination of factors such as increased attrition, an unregulated workforce, and poor pay.
It’s important to remember it’s not just the ill patients who experience loneliness. Healthcare roles are terribly undervalued in today’s society, perhaps for a number of reasons. It is emotionally and physically grueling work, and mostly because it’s underpaid. Let’s say a simple thank you to every care worker who will miss Christmas Day with their families to take care of the many thousands of people who need love, care, and support on December 25, like any other day of the year.