I know that if I can make one person smile today, all my effort and energy will have been worthwhile. It's already a good day, I woke to glorious sunshine which sets me in good spirit, then I walk through the door and enter another day in the life of an activity coordinator and I know that my day is about to get even better.
The home is busy already, residents are sitting watching the morning news and reading the morning papers in the lounge, while others are tucking into their full English breakfast in the dining room. I hear ‘Morning Chris’ from my friend who greets me always in this way, after a hug and chat I leave her with a painted smile from ear to ear.
The radio is playing in the background and a resident is sitting near with the most engaged expression, focusing on every lyric he hears. Not to break his concentration, a quick wave of my hand to acknowledge him brings me the second smile of the morning so far.
There is so much to plan for now that the nicer weather is slowly creeping up on us. I switch on the computer and answer my emails, having booked and planned everything for our annual Family Fun Day, I just have to look over the artwork for the advertising materials required, with minor changes made everything is ordered and ready to send to print.
Its time to clock on officially and my morning walk around begins, setting up the communal areas ready for activities allowing staff to take the lead. You never know how your day is going to pan out, you can plan until your heart's content but you can never plan for the unexpected. I replace the reminiscent and rummage materials back into their usual places and set off back down stairs.
I join a resident sitting outside in the sensory garden chatting to Scotty the rabbit, before I approach him, I listen to his conversation hearing him say that he thinks the garden furniture looks a bit shabby and could do with a rub down, I’m sure I hear ‘Scotty the Rabbit’ agree. Before I know it, the activity room has been transformed into a work shop with benches, tables and chairs laid out on dustsheets and I’m joined by four other male residents armed with sandpaper. It’s a great atmosphere, as one resident begins to whistle the others join in, each checking each other’s work and informing one another that they have missed a bit.
The smiles just keep on coming!
The sun continues to shine and the day is becoming brighter, a gentleman is standing by the front door looking a little lost and disorientated, someone had passed through the door not realising he was behind them and the door had closed shut before he had got to it, noticing the need for redirection I greet him by his name and offer my hand, with a firm grip he takes my hand and we walk into the sunshine. After a deep intake of fresh air and a slow exhale he went on to tell me how much the grounds reminded him of his own gardens at home and that all he ever wants is to be outside. After completing several laps of the grounds, I notice that there is a pleasant atmosphere coming from the lounge, several of my colleagues are singing along to music with residents and those who aren’t usually engaged are. There are relatives visiting their loved ones and knowing how 'bonkers' our staff group are, we test the water with the ‘Macarena’ and get a great response before stepping it up a gear with the ‘Cha Cha Slide’. “It’s a great workout” one resident called out, “they need it” called another.
To watch an adult shed a tear isn’t pleasant, but when you can transform those tears to tears of happiness, there is no better feeling. Whilst completing my daily evaluations for activities a lady came to me, confused and upset that she had missed the last bus to get to the school to pick up her child. Knowing her life history and understanding her needs, I join her in her reality and direct her to the empathy doll sitting in her usual chair in the lounge. From the moment her eye catches the red hair and orange dungarees her face lights up, “of course I didn’t forget you” she said.
It turns out that today has been worth my time and energy, knowing that sometimes all it takes is the smallest of interactions to make the biggest difference to the lives of those taking their journey with dementia.