Activity provision and support, traditionally the role of the Activity Coordinator, is finally making the headlines on a daily basis. - Hoorah!
Care homes are being asked to demonstrate how they are being supportive and caring for their residents, as loved ones can no longer visit and 'see for themselves'. And guess what? They are realising that the easiest way to show this is through their daily activities, even if that is as simple as supporting a chat on the telephone.
More than ever, a whole team approach to activities is being implemented within care homes, everyone is joining in, whether it's helping with Easter crafts or playing a very active role in a life-size version of Hungry Hippos. I've been silently cheering - this is what I have been hoping to see for years.
I've never suggested that this transformation would be easy, it's not. But, in a time of adversity it helps to be a part of a team, to have fun and to share the challenges, and this has clearly been recognised by many care homes. It's also a fantastic way to gain free publicity for your care homes.
However,I was really saddened at the weekend to read a post on a Facebook group which had attracted a great number of responses in a similar vein. The post (from an Activity Coordinator) shocked me. Apparently, following the success of an Easter themed activity, a member of the care team had "dared" to make a suggestion of another Easter themed activity - and this was terrible.
Let's just think about that for a moment!
No, I'm really sorry, I can't for the life of me think what the carer had done wrong - but apparently I was missing the point!
Many more comments in the post thread explained how this had happened before, by other carers, to other activity coordinators.
As I continued to read through I finally caught on to the gist. There is a clear 'them and me' mentality here. "They are the carers" and "I am the Activity Coordinator"
- "I facilitate all of the activities"
I was amazed, in the past I have had so many Activity Coordinators tell me of their struggles as they work alone, with no encouragement, no budget and no support from the rest of the team. Yet, here I was reading something akin to the opposite. "A carer made a suggestion for another activity and I felt like I was being belittled, challenged, treated as if I didn't know anything." I felt this was such a shame, and such a wasted opportunity.
Here's a note to pass on to every care home activity coordinator who is struggling to work alone.
Please, please, please remember that activity support is a team effort. - Don't be alarmed when a carer suggests an activity for you to try.
They noticed you and understand what you are trying to achieve.
They see that your job is difficult and they want to help you.
If it's an activity that you already have planned, try saying something like "Aha, I have that planned for tomorrow/next week, I'm just trying to work out how everyone can be involved. Any suggestions?"
If it's an new idea, say something like "That's a great suggestion" and follow that up with a question such as;
"Do you think we could get everyone involved?"
"How can we adapt that to support those with dementia?"
"How could we set that up so that everyone could have a go?"
If the suggestions seems outlandish or impossible express your thoughts. Try saying something like "Wow! That's an ambitious suggestion, do you think we could do that?" (and keep your sarcastic tone quiet!) you never know, the carer who made the suggestion may have evidence to support how his/her suggestion could work.
- Listen and learn!
Always be open to new ideas, while we do need to take care not to set anyone up to fail, be mindful that carers know your residents too. An outstanding care home has great leadership - you must continue to learn how to be a great leader in activity provision.
And STAY AMAZING!