Christmas is a time for families, and a difficult time for those involved in social care. It does not matter whether it is care workers in residential care, agency carers or personal assistants directly working with individuals, the problem is the same, which is that Christmas Day is the one day of the year where morally, if not legally, the need for staff to spend time with their families is of equal priority to supporting those who need personal care and support.
I would argue it is actually a more difficult problem to 'square' for those directly employing personal assistants because they have the hard task of satisfying the needs of their staff, whom they may have a close relationship with, with their own needs. Of course people will 'volunteer' to work on Christmas Day if they have to, and put a brave face on the situation, but it is clearly a day few people wish to work, and it is therefore a potential stress point in the relationship between worker and user.
I feel the situation is made worse by the fact that for people without families, including many of those requiring assistance or support, it is quite a depressing affair. Christmas Day is the one day you are stuck at home, unless you have somewhere specific to go, planned well in advance. The norms of community are halted for a day as public services remain closed, and so there is no escape from the social isolation Christmas brings. Unless we have friends to spend the day with, we are therefore stuck at home to face our demons. It may be me but things are now made worse because there is no longer the televisual feast Christmas used to bring, as the medium remains slowly dying.
I usually go away for Christmas, going to Lanzarote last year, and love the fact Christmas Day is just another day for them, with most shops and restaurants staying open as you can walk in the lovely sunshine. This year, I am going away in January, so I am staying at home for Christmas and going out for lunch with my friend, and Columbian volunteer, giving my main PA a day with her family. But I am aware that I am able to 'make do' on specific days and therefore can make the Christmas period easier for my staff. Many disabled people do not have this luxury and so Christmas remains one of those awkward times.
Christmas is always going to be a hard time for those without families, as well as those requiring care and support. Society has to convince itself that Christmas is a jolly time as a way of getting through the winter blues, and it is not going to be willing to give up the hope Christmas brings, even if it could be toned down from the Hollywood portrayal of this festive holiday.
So when you are tucking into your Roast Turkey on Thursday, give a little thought to those who may not be enjoying Christmas as much as you, not from hardship but simply because they do not have a family in the way society expects on Christmas Day. Also give a little thought to all those who need to work on Christmas Day, hopefully by choice, in the social care and other sectors, to ensure other people can hopefully enjoy their Christmas.