This year Bob Geldof and some of his merry men got together to make another rendition of ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’ for charity, this time in aid of those affected by the Ebola virus. For those who have never heard the song, this is the original:

This year this song got quite the shit storm declaring the lyrics ignorant and condescending towards Africans and Africa alike.

Well, I can’t comment about Africa, having never been there and only doing secondary school based research about the place.

However, there is a world outside your window, so to speak, which many do not know about or choose to not acknowledge. That is the world of the elderly social cases cooped up in hospital for the festive season. For those not in the know, a social case occurs when an elderly person after being unwell in hospital is no longer able to take care of himself and no alternative care plan has been initiated by the relatives after discharge. So basically, the elderly person remains at the hospital until a space opens up in a government care home. Which does not happen frequently.

Then it is often a downward spiral. Relatives stop coming to visit, therefore they don’t bring fresh clothes and the elderly end up wearing a hospital gown all the time. Since the hospital is not a residence there aren’t any domestic washing machines, everything is sterilised and autoclaved and regular clothing would get wrecked.

And of course, without an alternative, they are forced to eat hospital food. It is not bad, but it’s no roast turkey dinner.

Around Christmas, the casualty nurses will tell you, that relatives will literally dump their elderly at A&E and leave, so as not to have their burden during the holidays. Now that is truly despicable.

As nurses, we try to create an atmosphere: we decorate, give little presents and play Christmas songs in the ward. We wear Santa hats with our uniforms and hold Christmas tea, the staff cooking in shifts and even coming in on their day off to prepare. And even though we are a little family, us nurses and other members of the multi-disciplinary team, we are all safe in the knowledge that at a point we will go home to our nearest and dearest, which is something I can not say for some of our elderly.

Lately I met my sister for a spot of dinner and we were discussing the challenging nature of our professions, especially around the Christmas season. My sister is a social worker who works with victims of domestic violence. There are many women and children out there who will be spending Christmas in a shelter, families torn apart.

Every Christmas I write a message asking you all not to drink too much and to stay safe. Well, I wish for you to do those things, but my main message this year is this: if you have a relative in hospital during the festive season, even if very distant, go visit. Bring with you a home cooked meal and if possible some proper clothes for them. Tell them that they matter and that you love them.

But say a prayer to pray for the other ones
At Christmastime
It’s hard, but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window….

Merry Christmas, y’all.

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