Twelve Tips for Activity Coordinators by Gillian Hesketh

Twelve Tips for Care Home Activity Coordinators

by Gillian Hesketh MA

 A few weeks ago, I was invited to be on the panel for a two day interview process for a company dedicated to enriching social care and who were planning to employ twelve Activity Coordinators, newly named Activity Lifestyle Facilitators, which to me, did sound slightly more responsible. My understanding of the Activity Coordinator – or Lifestyle Facilitator role is a very busy and varied one, loaded with a range of diverse responsibilities, duty to care and assorted add-ons. My belief is that ACs/LFs are very special people, doing a much needed job and thankfully, often recognised by residents or patients and relatives. Being able to provide gentle care, attention to personal preferences, fun activities and the responsibility to organise outings and events is a demanding role. With the title of Activities Coordinator, the role is often misunderstood by colleagues and people outside the care service environment: ‘Ah that must be a fun job’ I heard someone say recently, with a tone which sounded like they thought the AC was spending all day just having a laugh. Well yes, having a laugh is probably part of the job description but if you are an AC, you’ll know there’s much more to the position than just having fun.

Enriching people’s lives is rewarding, there’s no doubt about that. It’s clear we’ll be requiring more ACs/LFs in the future as we ensure enriched social care is provided throughout our care services. But as I see more and more ACs/LFs running around trying to do everything alone, sometimes without enough support, I’m concerned for coordinator burn out and the position becoming unattractive to newcomers.

As MD of Happy Days Dementia Workshop, I’m regularly visiting care homes and hospitals and always on the lookout for ways to enrich social care. Our workshops allow hands on practice with Happy Days nostalgic materials and we discuss solutions to AC/LF challenges. [See website below for Activity Workshop for your home]. So, for anyone new to the role, here’s a list of pointers and tips – and if you’re already engaged in a similar role, let’s call them refreshers:

Clearly, person-centred care is first and foremost but here’s three starters to consider for the AC/LF role: Be organised – Feel in charge – Enlist help

1. Organisation

Being organised can contribute towards calmness when planning ahead. Make basic plans to form your daily and weekly templates. Edit information each time you come across new materials, timings, location, outcome, benefits. Keeping your templates updated will help team members when you’re at meetings, organising an event or on holiday.

2. Activity Diary

Always promote your activity. Use an activity board and place it in a prominent location. This allows visitors easy access to information so they can be aware of activities their relatives are engaging in, join in themselves or offer to volunteer. Team members can be aware of activity timings.

3. Get to Know Your Resident

Scouring the internet for life story materials or hours designing life story can be draining. We have just the resource for you: Happy Days Life Story Memory Jogger – can help you really get to know resident. Interests, hobbies and favourites can be recorded in this colourful response booklet and also shared with the resident’s family and friends. Save the time to care more. See online shop details below.

4. Integrated Care

Engaging in everyday skills can be fulfilling for some people. Using the Memory Jogger can help identify who would enjoy participating in everyday living tasks around the home. Can Lavinia help with the laundry? Can George help in the garden? CanTina set the tables?

5. Don’t Rush

You’ve got a lot to do in your day but try not to rush about – or give the appearance of rushing. People living with dementia can often sense when someone is rushing and it can tend to make them feel anxious. So take a deep breath and slow down, especially when in conversation or making requests.

6. Environment

Environments need to be clear yet interesting. Remove faded pictures and dried up flowers.  Too much information on a wall can be confusing. If you’ve inherited bookcases full of old books and racks of cds, have a clear out. Finding the right cd amongst hundreds can be time wasting. Ask residents to help sort through the titles. This activity can be continued throughout the week.

7. Fresh Air

We get most of our Vitamin D from sunlight. Foods contain only a small amount of vitamin D: Liver, fish, eggs and cereal so where possible, help residents visit the outdoors for fresh air.  Put on hats and coats and take a short stroll or ride around the garden. Whether it’s wooly hat, cap or sun hat, coat, scarf, gloves or sun cream fresh air is healthy, invigorating – and It’s free! Make sure residents keep hydrated.

8. Engage residents

When you arrive at your new AC/LF post and find the craft baskets full with crumpled paper, damaged crayons and blunt pencils, ask your residents to come to the rescue. People feel useful when helping to do something purposeful. Turn the tidying and sorting into an activity. Repair jigsaw boxes and fix games. This act can be just as beneficial to some people as playing the game itself.

9. Moments in Time Activities

When you are presenting a group activity, some people may be satisfied with smaller tasks: sorting, stacking, winding wool, putting items in and out of containers. This helps to keep people’s hands busy and may calm agitation.

10. Budget

I often hear activity coordinators saying their budget for supplies and activity materials isn’t enough as they are often expected to organise entertainers from within the same budget. I see ACs/LFs trying to provide the very best social activities for resident well-being. Speak with managers about budgets. Organise smaller fundraisers: Weekly raffle – Guess the Weight – Teddy’s Name – Family Quiz Hour

11. Fundraising

Fundraising can be easy. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Make a mini questionnaire to find out who would like to help and in which capacity. Once you’ve decided on the event, it’s all about being organised and enlisting help. Share out roles and responsibilities. See Happy Days for Fundraising Tips for Care Homes: http://www.dementiaworkshop.co.uk/2016/02/fundraising-ideas-for-the-care-home/

12. Enlist help

Everyone will benefit when you enlist the help of colleagues and visitors. Advertise a tea/coffee meeting to inform everyone about your event. Provide cakes, ice lollies or even fruit salad to attract helpers. Ask everyone for ideas and make a list of possibilities. Invite the community: School choir, local joiner, florist, sewing, knitting or gardening club. Patting a pet is becoming very popular – this can include dogs, cats even rabbits!

We know the AC/LF role is a busy one with varied planning skills together with boundless energy, a sense of fun, and yet sometimes this role can pull on our emotional strings. Stay well; eat healthily, exercise and remember to take care of you.

If you are a freelance Activity Coordinator or Lifestyle Facilitator and would like to be added to our AC/LF listing, [it’s free], just email gillian@dementiaworkshop.co.uk

Happy Days provides a wide range of nostalgic activity materials, games, conversation prompts, meaningful wall art and ready made memory boxes to suit all budgets.

If you are a care home group interested in our themed rooms, carer, memory products or edited resources for your care service, please phone for a visit.

If you are a residential or dementia home, hospital or care service in North West, we offer a mobile service

For a brochure please email info@dementiaworkshop.co.uk – or phone: 01253-899163

Shop online at www.dementiaworkshp.co.uk

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