Christmas is a time for spending with family and friends. Whether it’s decorating the Christmas tree, wrapping the presents, cooking the dinner or watching Christmas TV – it’s a day when people want to be at home surrounded by their loved ones.
Unfortunately, this can make spending Christmas Day in hospital even more challenging. Following a brain injury many people have to spend weeks, months or even years in hospital, and this may sadly fall over the festive period.
We asked our social media followers how they coped with a Christmas spent in hospital and, from their responses, we’ve put together some top tips:
Most wards will appreciate that patients don’t want to be there, especially on Christmas Day. Often hospital staff go to a special effort to bring some festive cheer to patients' bedsides. Here are some of the ways people said their ward marked Christmas:
Sally Gutteridge spent last Christmas in hospital following brain surgery. She said: “We had Xmas lunch and gifts from Santa and they had carol singers round the ward. All the staff were great, very upbeat - it was probably not much fun for them having to work.”
Jayne Robinson thinks the staff on her ward went above and beyond to make Christmas special for the patients, despite not being able to remember much following her road traffic accident. Jayne said:
I spent Christmas in hospital, but I have no memory of it, only the song Mistletoe and Wine by Cliff Richard for some reason. I do think though that the staff at Royal Hallamshire Hospital Sheffield put in the effort to make it as festive as possible for patients.
Linzi Blair’s husband has spent two Christmases in hospital following his brain injury: “The second one we took part in the Christmas dinner the ward put on - we took in our gifts as a family and gave my husband as good a day as we could. The staff do/did their best with decorations and music.”
Many hospital wards will extend visiting hours and limitations on visitor numbers on Christmas Day, so check with the ward what you can expect.
Following a brain injury you might not have time for the buying and exchanging of Christmas gifts but that doesn’t mean you can't enjoy your time together.
Amanda Hopkins was allowed to bring the family dog along to enjoy the festivities when visiting her husband following his brain injury. She said: “Hubby was in hospital and rehab for a year and spent one Xmas in hospital, but he does not remember any of it. I took the dog in and spent most of the day and evening with him... the staff were great and loved me taking our dog in.”
Two years ago Kev Demery spent Christmas Day in hospital and says he was lucky to have friends and family visit. Unfortunately, this Christmas one of his friends is facing the day in hospital but Kev hopes to make it special, saying: “If they are in a bed with a nice view outside I’ve got a plan to get a load of friends together and wish her a Merry Christmas sing along from outside.”
Chantal Rayner’s daughter is sadly facing her second Christmas in hospital following a hypoglycaemic hypoxic brain injury. Chantal said: “She is in forced segregation due to her behaviours so her room is decorated and myself, stepdad and two younger sisters will be with her Christmas day. We will take dry crunchy food as she is fussy and we will eat our Christmas dinner late in the evening when we get home.”
Phone calls and video calls are a great way to connect with family and friends if it is not possible to see each other in person. If your loved one is in hospital and missing out on a family gathering consider skyping them or recording a Christmas message so they feel included.
While most people are off work over Christmas, many hospital staff are still on duty, despite having their own family and friends at home. They go above and beyond to try and make the day special for their patients, in often challenging circumstances.
Katie Barker said:
My parents and other half both made sure the staff at the hospital had some nice food because they were amazing with me and the children.
Stuart – a brain injury support worker - worked at a rehabilitation centre last Christmas Day and said: “We just tried to make it as normal as possible - Christmas dinner and Christmas movies.”
Christmas is, after all, just another day. If you- or your loved one- is still in hospital recovering from the effects brain injury then full-blown celebrations might be too much to handle.
In the early stages of brain injury recovery it might be hard to plan ahead and you may have to take each day as it comes. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to enjoy the day and don’t feel bad if you need to sleep or opt to avoid the day altogether.
If your loved one’s condition means they won’t appreciate the 25th December, consider postponing the celebrations until they can. There’s nothing saying you can’t get festive on another day and having your own alternative Christmas could be a special way of marking how far a loved one has come.
Katie was sad to have missed her son’s Christmas play following a diagnosis of fluid on the brain and a benign tumour in early December. Her family weren’t able to properly celebrate Christmas that year as she was in-and-out of consciousness throughout December and January, but she said:
My boys refused to take our Christmas tree down until I came home, that was April!
The Headway helpline and many local Headway groups and branches will be closed over the Christmas period, but there are support options available for those who need it. Find information about alternative contacts here.
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