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How To Help & Support Your Activity Coordinators - for Residential Care & Dementia Homes & Services

Gillian Hesketh of Happy Days Dementia Activities & Design understands the importance of having the right resources to hand for activity coordinators working in residential care homes. Here, she explains how you can support your activity coordinators to deliver first class activities and support for your residents.

Calling All Care & Dementia Home Groups, Managers and Regional Support Teams:

Imagine your favourite hobby or pastime. Consider the equipment you need to do it. Gym kit? Running shoes? Music Scores? Tennis racquet? Football boots? Books? Gardening gloves, trowel, spade? Tool box? Canvas and paintbrushes? Where do you store it all?

On behalf of Activity Coordinators and Life Style Facilitators, I would like to say to care home groups, managers and regional support teams simply this: ‘Please consider the provision of storage and preparation space for these enthusiastic and dedicated social care teams.

Many times, during design visits to care and dementia homes, I have seen activity materials, games and jigsaws tumbling from a well-used shallow bookcase or stacked up high on the very top; squashed into corners of tea room worktops, baskets and boxes stacked on the floor and left over Christmas decorations lingering among Spring-time and Easter activities. Lack of space often appears to be the culprit.

During AC and LF training sessions, participants almost always discuss the lack of storage and preparation space available which could stifle creativity and make planning ahead more difficult than it should be. I’ve listened to stories of AC’s storing materials in the boots of their cars, spare bedrooms at home, taking over kitchen worktops and porches.

Please, help activity coordinators by providing a space where they can organise and store their materials on site, prepare activities, plan and create events for their residents. Maybe add a little extra time to their day for preparation of the varied programme necessary to enrich social care for every resident and for people who may also be living with dementia.

As we know, a good sense of wellbeing goes beyond a healthy diet and exercise, it includes intellectual and emotional good health, requires mental stimulation and a wide range of opportunities for social interaction.

We are all different; some of us love being part of a group and others prefer a less busy life-style and this is clearly reflected in a residential care setting. Not everyone wants to join in group activities, some people may remain in their rooms through choice or immobility and the AC understands the need for the provision of a different engagement model (ie on a one-to-one basis) alongside the group work.

The AC’s role in care settings is much more complex than is often recognised; it goes far beyond a game of Bingo or sourcing materials for colouring for relaxation session. The AC has to work on many levels; planning everyday activities, encouraging outdoor activity, organising entertainment for music and dance events, fitness sessions plus finding interesting visitors from pets to pat to school visits. AC’s are often responsible for encouraging other carers to feel part of everyday activities, enlisting volunteers, creating seasonal events and fundraising.

So just imagine providing all these opportunities without a base, without suitable storage, without a work-space, desk or a quiet corner to plan the week’s activities, arrange events and update evidence based feedback for care home and CQC records.

If you are reading this and want to help, just ask your AC’s and LF’s what they need to help make their day more efficient - everyone is sure to benefit. Activity Coordinators are passionate, enthusiastic people, almost always energetic; their love of life often infectious as they share their spirit to help everyone enjoy everyday. So let’s keep this spirit and energy flowing by establishing a space or base for them to plan, create and grow social activity for wellbeing.

Let's bring an end to the stories about materials invading AC’s homes. Activity Coordinators may feel fresher starting their day’s work, be more focused and prepared. It’s a win - win situation which just needs a little bit of attention, time and perhaps a cupboard or two.

Top Tip from Happy Days Dementia Workshop:

Wheel Out Your Wares ... with a Happy Days Activity Trolley©

Here’s another way to help AC’s and care teams store materials and engage with residents simultaneously. Happy Days Activity Trolleys are packed with reminiscence baskets or boxes, memorabilia and nostalgic games. Wheel the trolley to lounges, activity rooms or personal rooms. Change the themes daily or weekly ... Store in a cupboard - or leave at reception for relatives to share with their loved ones during visits.

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