“Donald doesn't want to eat. Or drink. We can't get him to talk.”
There’s nothing particularly exceptional about this story so far. As a resident in a care setting, Donald’s experience of life is by no means unique. It’s the start of a story I hear regularly on coaching calls with care home staff on the Outstanding Activities programme.
What’s thrilling to report is that although I can never predict what path the story is going to tread, I can be pretty confident that I’m going to hear a tale of transformation. That the participant in question has made a breakthrough. And that someone somewhere is surprised.
“We opened the box.”
(Outstanding Activities participants receive a box of resources every month, filled with resources, instructions & inspiration)
“He straight away grabbed the bowler hat… Started spinning in, starring at it, looking inside... It's been transforming him.”
Staff have been taking the bowler hat to him everyday.
"And now we can get him to eat!"
On another call recently I heard that Betty is “quite depressive... when she comes out of her room she's in a good mood, but she can refuse to come out for some time."
Betty responded to the box contents with “surprising interest and excitement.” Her daughter - who is used to seeing her mother upset and in her room - visited and "was over the moon!"
Following this use of an Outstanding Activities box, Betty was in a good mood for a fortnight.
It’s a delight to hear value and enduring impact arising from small interventions inspired by our programme. What also strikes me though is the surprise. The interest, the engagement, the shift, the transformation is so often unexpected. As if the natural state of the individual in question was to be fasting, or unresponsive or disengaged with life.
Sometimes the greatest act of generosity we can give someone is withholding our judgements and expectations for long enough to give them space to be unusual. To be open enough to make a creative offer which could lead anywhere. As creative acts so often do!
This article was previously published on February 18, 2016 http://www.laddertothemoon.co.uk/news/2016/2/18/surprise-and-enduring-impact-with-residents-who-dont