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St Valentine's Day theme - "you can't do that, that's insensitive!"

Have you ever spent your time planning an activity with and for your residents only to be told by your manager or a colleague "you can't do that!".

St Valentine's Day is a typical example, which can attract many scornful reactions. My message to you is "take no notice!".

When you plan your activities are you involving your residents with your planning?

Are your activities inclusive?

If the answer is yes to these two questions, then your answer to those who tell you it's inappropriate or insensitive, is that you have discussed it with your residents and they have expressed their wishes to celebrate the day/theme and you are supporting them to do just that.

These activities provide opportunities for socialising among residents. Participating in St Valentine's themed events encourages communication, bonding, and the formation of connections, promoting a sense of community within the care home.

Here are some tips for ensuring that your St Valentine's Day activities are planned sensitively.

Prioritise communication: Communication between residents and staff will help everyone to understand individual preferences and sensitivities. Create an open dialogue where residents can express their feelings or concerns about specific themes. This proactive approach helps in tailoring activities to suit the diverse needs of the community.

Show emotional sensitivity: Some residents may have experienced loss or difficult emotions related to relationships, making Valentine's Day a potentially sensitive subject. Engaging in such activities could inadvertently trigger negative emotions for certain individuals. Let's be honest here. For residents who have experienced loss or difficult relationships, ANYTHING can be a trigger. It could be a song played on the radio, a television advert, the smell of toast in the morning or a certain flower grown in the garden.

When we grieve (the life of someone or the loss of a relationship) we never know what might make us think of them or a particular circumstance which upsets us. But we must go through the emotion. Carers are there to give that support, whether it is during a particular activity or not.

I once had a lady unexpectedly cry as we listened to some hymns, that particular hymn was one she had played on the church organ with her sister. She explained, "I'm alright, I was just remembering. It was a happy occasion, my brother's wedding!" I sat and held her hand for a few moments while she continued to listen to the music being played. She smiled and said "thank you".

If I had known of this trigger beforehand, would I have chosen not to play that particular hymn? No, it would have robbed her of a very special moment of remeniscence.

We're here to give special moments, not to take them away.

Inclusivity Concerns:

Not all residents may have a romantic partner or celebrate St Valentine's Day, and emphasising such themes could make some residents feel excluded. This is why it's important to include residents in your planning. Collect expressions of interest before the day.*

What are the reasons behind them not wanting to celebrate St Valentine's Day? How can you respect these and ensure that these residents are engaged in other activities, not excluded from main lounges, etc.? While including Valentine's-themed activities, offer alternatives such as general crafts, games, or entertainment.

By the way, worrying about certain residents not having a romantic partner is a ridiculous reason for you to exclude them (unless they themselves have expressed a wish not to be involved), we're looking at making every resident feel special, with a heart-shaped chocolate and a red rose on their breakfast tray or table setting, for instance.

Design activities that celebrate various aspects of relationships beyond romantic love. Incorporate themes of friendship, family, or self-love to broaden the scope. This way, residents who may not relate to traditional romantic themes can still participate and enjoy the festivities.

Promoting positive wellbeing:

Creating decorations, cards, or participating in themed games can enhance cognitive functions and provide a sense of accomplishment, contributing to overall mental well-being.

St Valentine's Day activities can evoke positive emotions, fostering a sense of love and connection among residents.

Engaging in crafts, sharing stories, or enjoying themed decorations can contribute to a warm and uplifting atmosphere. Thus promoting positive emotional wellbeing for both residents and staff.

*The SILVER MEMBERSHIP activity packs include resources to help with this. You can join using the button at the top of this page £60 per annum (monthly payments available for activity coordinators funding their own membership).


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