We have the best job in the world!! For many years we have been care home entertainers in Northamptonshire, developing wonderful relationships with the staff and the men and women who live in them. We enjoy meeting new people, telling them a little bit about ourselves and getting to know individual names, listening to their memories and hearing about their families.
Our job is made easier when we are greeted by a staff member who makes sure we have everything we need before we start - you’ll be pleased to know we’re very low maintenance and quite happy with a socket, a table and a jug of water! We make the most of the time it takes to set up our equipment, chatting to everyone and putting them at ease. Of course, some residents are not able to communicate in this way but it’s not always necessary to have a 2-way conversation to engage with someone. A resident in a care home we visit every month is unable to talk or make eye contact with us. However, as soon as we walk through the door she starts to wave her arms around as if she is conducting an orchestra. It’s clear she recognises us and understands that we are there to entertain once again.
For us, it is vitally important we engage and interact with our audiences, encouraging all who want to, to join in, in any way they can. We are not there to just sing at people and to be admired – although it’s always a bonus when someone tells us how much they have enjoyed our singing. We also appreciate that sometimes residents have no idea we are coming to sing for them and perhaps have not had a choice as to whether or not they want to participate. We were very amused, during Wimbledon fortnight, when a gentleman asked us what we were doing there. We explained that we were going to sing and asked him if he liked music. He replied “no, not really. I’d rather watch the tennis”. Not wanting him to miss out on something he was really enjoying, we simply asked the Activities Organiser to mute the sound on the television so he could still watch the match. We have come to realise, too, that residents’ enjoyment is greatly enhanced when staff stay for the entertainment and actively join in the fun. We were thrilled recently when several staff members either helped residents to stand and “dance” or sat with them, holding their hands and helping them to sing along during our visit to one of our regular “gigs”.
Sadly, this is not always the case. Very occasionally residents are settled into their seats and all care staff leave, presumably to catch up with a mountain of paperwork or have a well deserved break. We have had incidents of a resident trying to get up to go to the toilet and falling and another who suddenly felt extremely unwell and became distressed. Whilst we are willing to help in any way we can, we are not trained carers and worry that, in rushing to someone’s assistance, we may cause more harm than good. Given the nature of some residents’ mental health, it is also not uncommon for a resident to be curious about us and our equipment. In venturing too close there is the danger they could trip over wires or knock something over. One or more carers in attendance can prevent this from happening and ensure everyone is kept safe and happy.
All in all, though, we feel privileged we have the opportunity to bring joy, laughter and memories to our audiences and this is what makes our job the best in the world!!
Carole & Peter.