Providing activities for the elderly can be one of the most rewarding roles in a care home. At Barchester, we believe in providing well rounded lives for the residents we care for by providing activities programmes for groups within the home, as well as encouraging personal interests of residents with their individual hobbies in an effort to celebrate life as often as we can.
We speak to Michael Butler, Activities Coordinator at one of our care homes, who gives us a peek into a day of his life at Barchester, and what it means to work with residents on activities and events at the home. A part of the Barchester family for the last 11 years, Michael was recently appointed Activities champion for his division, teaching and supporting other activities coordinators how to support residents in Barchester homes, many of whom are living with dementia, and several with complex dementia. Passionate about helping people, Michael’s dedication to residents as well and to Barchester and his wider team is reflected in his thoughtful and entertaining activities that take place at the home.
Arriving at work earlier than planned is not unusual for me, but the idea of getting here early and doing the things that need to be done before you officially clock on never go to plan. You start the morning with the best will in the world… until you walk through the door and enter the day in the life of an activities coordinator.
The first people I greet in the morning are residents already having breakfast in the dining room. It’s a cheerful morning, and I chat briefly to the residents about how the sun has come out finally. One resident calls me by the wrong name as I sing, but I know they’re calling for me so I play along, and we talk about what was served for breakfast.
Once I’ve ditched the coat and said hi to those I pass on my way to the office, I start to plan the day’s activities from the programme that is displayed. Today I set up in the lounge, as it’s one of the larger lounges at the home, and a great area for morning activities because the chairs are comfortable and the room is spacious. It also has a lot of storage so that everything I need is in the room and I don’t have to keep walking back and forth for equipment.
Today’s morning was quite relaxed, as I just started with low level music playing via the iPad, where I have created a playlist to suit the resident’s musical preferences, and I’ve put newspapers on coffee tables to provide chit chat if desired. I usually know which resident will be up for the morning and walking about, so having a playlist on hand that is recognisable to them can be both meaningful and reassuring at the same time.
Empathy dolls and companion pets are also placed around the lounge, as these are another way to reduce any anxieties or upsets before a session starts, and can enable positive interaction throughout the activity.
I then attend our daily team meetings where each head of department shares their key points of the day everyone should know, including what activities are on the agenda. Today we have a new resident moving in, so our hospitality team is making sure the dishes on the menu for today need to be adjusted, and I’ll make sure to visit her once she has settled in to her room to invite her to one of our activities. I always like to touch base with each resident to find out what activities they enjoy. The entire activities programme at Barchester is to enrich people’s lives and support people living as independently as they can.
When I return to the lounge some of the residents have already popped their head in, and are enjoying the music from the ipad, and playing with the empathy dolls. I turn up the music slightly and watch those who usually observe starting to tap their feet and click their fingers. Before we know it one gent has discovered the basket of musical instruments by the side of the rummage chest and is handing them out. A couple of my colleagues come in to join us and we begin a full rendition of ‘oh what a beautiful morning’. Streamers wave side to side, arms stretched high and legs marching to the music, the singing ends with a lovely crescendo and the residents want us to do it again.
As we begin to play the song, I notice one resident who appears quite anxious and upset. It becomes evident that he’s feeling particularly alone and is in need of a chat. A cup of tea and a mention of the fire service later has diverted his attention to meaningful conversation, and his body language is more relaxed. He is very proud of his role as a respected senior divisional officer in the service, and loves sharing his wonderful stories.
After lunch, we turn on our ball lights in the Calm lounge. With fibre optics and light projections, the ball lights are calming and relaxing as the residents get comfortable in the chairs. We add soothing smell pots from the seaside box, and sounds of the ocean, and everyone in the room becomes relaxed and calm. Some residents that have anxiety also have fidget toys to play with.
I end the day by completing the day’s activity evaluations getting feedback from the residents and the staff. I pay a visit to a resident who prefers not to participate in group activities. It’s a sad visit as the care team explain his health is deteriorating. We organised a visit from a priest from the local church to visit, and I go in to hold his hand. It can be a difficult job working in care because it can get quite emotional when residents get poorly. Daily activities can be a small part of someone’s experience in a care home but it really does make a big difference to the enrichment of someone’s life. Here at Hollyfield’s our team really do go above and beyond to support the ones we care for, and for activities, that extra little bit of joy I can bring someone makes me feel really proud.