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Festive fun for Epilepsy Society residents
FOR residents of the Epilepsy Society, Christmas is a celebration lasting for more than a month.
Dozens of festive-themed activities have been taking place at the Chalfont St Peter based charity over the last few weeks, and they're set to last well into the New Year.
While to some people the build-up to the big day seems to take forever, at the Epilepsy Society staying in the festive mood is an important way of keeping up the morale of residents.
Many of them require constant supervision as a result of the severity of their condition and some aren't able to go home during the holiday period - so instead the party comes to them.
The condition of the residents with the most severe epilepsy can dramatically alter without warning, meaning plans to spend time with family at Christmas are sometimes cancelled at the last minute.
Jenny Davison, the service manager of Micholls House, one of the residential care homes at the Epilepsy Society, said: "Some families do come in and have their Christmas parties here. There was one particular family who made plans but on the day the resident couldn't get out of bed, so at the last minute they came in and had Christmas with the staff here.
"It's their home as well and we are here to serve them."
She said: "We do a lot of events all through the year but this month and next month are all about Christmas. We have so many celebrations, which ends in a big party with a meal."
Residents have had a go at making their own Christmas dinner, and have also participated in craft days to make their own festive decorations and Christmas cards.
The centre hosted a carol service with a difference, with some of the residents singing using sign language before teaching the appropriate signs to some of the other patients.
A family interaction day also took place and Ms Davison said: "It was really good getting the parents involved, sitting with their loved ones. Most of the residents have got quite involved families.
"We are always trying to find things they can enjoy and look forward to. Everyone is thinking 'Christmas is coming' - it's a massive activity and they are all excited."
Staff at the centre, based in Chesham Lane, are also encouraged to come up with ideas to stimulate the minds of the residents.
One recent activity involved residents putting together shoeboxes filled with goodies to send to disadvantaged people in Africa - one of a number of ways to get people to think of the world outside of the centre.
Ms Davison said: "Everyone brought in an item to put in a shoebox to send to Africa. We also did our own Olympics last summer. We try to bring the world in - it can be easy to sit there and not know what's happening.
"It helps motivate the staff if they have got something to do with the residents."
Misconceptions about epilepsy are still rife among the general public, Ms Davison said, with many people wrongly associating it with fits being triggered by flashing lights.
Only five per cent of people with epilepsy suffer from the condition in this way and they usually do not require residential care treatment. There are 42 different types of epileptic seizures that affect patients to varying degrees - many of the Epilepsy Society residents have brain damage as a result of the condition, while others have learning difficulties that require round-the-clock supervision to monitor.
Ms Davison said: "Some people can have 20 to 30 seizures a day. It's hard to function and to get through the day."
The age range of patients is 19-42, with the younger ones tending to go home for the festive period as living at the centre is often their first experience of living away from home.
If not, patients' families are able to attend the centre any time they like.
Ms Davison said: "We have an open door policy. Parents have the key to the doors and they can come in any time, day or night. The parents really appreciate it they can let themselves in and go and make sure their son or daughter, or brother or sister, is safe."
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