Activities Co-Ordinator Job : feedback

Discussion in 'Researchers, students and professionals' started by jamesbrown333, May 15, 2007.

  1. jamesbrown333

    jamesbrown333 Registered User

    May 12, 2007
    Hi everyone, I have just applied for a Activities Co-Ordinators job in a nursing home. I'm currently doing admin work for a IT, and feel I need a big change and something totally new. This role sounds fascinating for the following reasons:

    Working with people with dementia
    Organising day trips and fundraising events
    Buying weekly materials for the residents

    My sister and mum work at this nursing home as chefs, and they have said 4 people have had this job in 5 years because they can't motivate the residents, therefore they do very little activities with them and eventually they get bored with the job. I think this is wrong, everyone has something that gets them excited, and it takes work to find out this information. My sister heard no one is interested in the job, even though the nursing home has advertised in the jobcentre.

    A few people have said I'm too young for the job, I'm 22. I have seen the residents a few times and I know some of them are very agressive and sensitive, so it's not going to be a shock for me. I know this position will be hard work and disheartening a lot of time, but I'm prepared for that. The key is to gather as much information from the relatives as possible, maybe bringing in photo's or objects and working with the residents to help produce their own scrapbook and talk to them about their past. Find out what each individual hobbies are and stimulate those areas to get them motivated.

    In the past they haven't been able to get any of the residents out of the nursing home. Something like going to the local coffee shop, library, feeding the ducks or general walking, is very difficult for the residents. The easy option is staying in and watching tv, which is a shame. How much better would the residents feel if they were feeding the ducks on a lovely sunny day?

    I feel I have a lot of enthusiam for this job and want to help the residents and the relatives as much as possible.

    I would like to get feedback from the relatives:

    Did the activities co-ordinator ask about what the resident likes to do?
    Did they ask you to bring any photo's in?
    What relationship do you have with the activities co-ordinator?
    What do you think of the activities they do at the nursing home?
    What activities would you like to see in the nursing home?
    Do you have any questions?
  2. alfjess

    alfjess Registered User

    Jul 10, 2006
    south lanarkshire
    I have a lot of enthusiam for this job and want to help the residents and the relatives as much as possible.

    I would like to get feedback from the relatives:

    Did the activities co-ordinator ask about what the resident likes to do?
    Did they ask you to bring any photo's in?
    What relationship do you have with the activities co-ordinator?
    What do you think of the activities they do at the nursing home?
    What activities would you like to see in the nursing home?
    Do you have any questions?[/QUOTE]

    I would love you to work in my parents care home. You sound so enthusiastic. Athough I understand that activities are limited with dementia patients.
    Mum and Dad have very recently gone into care, but from what I can see at the moment, there does not seem to be very many organised activities other than a sing song (hymns) once a week.
    So far, no activities co-ordinator has spoken to me. I have taken photos in, but put them in their room. I have no relationship with the activities co-ordinator, never met him/her, indeed I don't know if one exists
    It does worry me that whenever I visit, Mum and Dad, are sitting on a sofa in the lounge together, doing nothing and no one with them.
    As Mum and Dad are in residential care I don't know what activities would be appropiate for a nursing home, but I would think, music, sing-a-longs, as in old recognisible cheery music, if they can't remember the words, they can clap, maybe also exercise (with instructions) to music, from a sitting position. and as for the rest just, interest and talking and listening.

    Not very helpful, sorry.
  3. jamesbrown333

    jamesbrown333 Registered User

    May 12, 2007
    World War music like vera lynn, andrew sisters and glenn miller. I could hire someone to play piano and sing old war songs:)
  4. Brucie

    Brucie Registered User

    Jan 31, 2004
    near London
    Full marks for your enthusiasm - this is something that is essential for the job.

    How well activities work will really depend on the stage of dementia the residents/day care people are at.

    At my Jan's home, ther organise all sorts of things - concerts, music hall, visiting farms, horse racing [in the atrium of the home...not real horses!], bowls [in the atrium], cake making, choirs, trips out on the canal, etc

    To be frank, it is very difficult to see what benefit the residents get, but it is good for the staff as the events relieve their day and make them fresher for their caring role.

    People with dementia have difficulty communicating, so in reality they may be loving these things - however at this home they need someone with each resident to keep them calm, and to stop them simply wandering off.

    Bringing in photos is good - but more for the relatives and staff's benefit really. Often, reminding someone that they have forgotten their past [which is what it may be, rather then reminding them of events in it] will provoke a bad reaction. You can't remember what has been erased.

    Making things can be good - bit of glue and paper - they make Valentine's cards, birthday cards and Christmas cards with the residents and that works - primarily because the person organising it is totally hands-on with each resident.

    She also makes up special CDs of music.

    Music can be a problem in homes. The staff, as they are younger, may want modern stuff to relieve their day. Older residents will almost certainly be more at home with something of their era, though of course communication problems make it difficult to be sure.

    What you could do is ask family what music each resident liked, and try to provide a variety that suits all residents. Don't forget light classical music!

    Final point - age doesn't matter at all! It is the ability to join the residents individually in their own worlds and find something that will brighten their day that is key.

    One man at my Jan's home spends his days looking through a book of pictures of tractors. He worked on a farm. It works for him.

    Good luck!
  5. CassElle

    CassElle Registered User

    Jun 7, 2005
    Activities Co-Ordinator Job Feedback

    Good Luck with your application for the job with that kind of enthusiasm you deserve the chance. I read an article a while ago about a place (not sure if it was a home or day centre) where they recreated a room from its modern state to that of one from the 50's. Furnishings fixtures fittings lino etc etc. It was said that this room brought a lot out of the dementia service users and was a big success.

    Let us all know how you get on.

  6. janetruth

    janetruth Registered User

    Mar 20, 2007
    HI Jamesbrown

    Go for it, you are young and vibrant, my mum loves to interact with young people.
    Everyone is an individual, ask relatives to write a short biography of their loved one (not a book).
    Do things, that maybe some of them, never got to do while they were growing up.
    I hope you get the job, good luck.
    Old people, are young ppeopl in diguise.

    Take Care Bye for now :cool:
    Janetruth x
  7. Nell

    Nell Registered User

    Aug 9, 2005
    Hi Jamesbrown,

    Good luck with the position! I sincerely hope you get the job. Just a word of caution though - check if you have to have special training in that area before you get much further. I would hate to see your enthusiasm squashed, but if there are prerequisite qualifications which you don't have, you might not get considered for the job. I say this because training is a prerequisite here in Australia - but it may be different in the UK.

    I agree with Bruce about activities. I think one of the things that disheartens many Activities Officers is that people with dementia just don't think or act like they did before they had dementia. Enthusiasm is one of the first things to go for many people. At my Mum's NH (and my Mum is quite competent at this stage) the residents rarely talk to each other, even about simple every day things. My sister often has lunch with Mum when she visits and she says she feels she has to be the "life and soul of the party" because no-one else is talking!!

    Don't let my negative points put you off though!! :D
    I just think it is important that you are realistic about what to expect - or you might also end up burnt out and disheartened.

    Have you thought about visiting some homes where there are good activities officers already working? I'm sure many people would be glad to share ideas and suggestions of what works, if you arranged a visit.

    One final bit of advice: my Mum is in her mid eighties and she said the other day that "they" (???) played "all this really old music from before I was born - I'm not that old!!" Although I couldn't help smiling to myself, I think she and others sometimes feel patronised if performers think that "suitable" music is songs like "Daisy, Daisy"!!! I agree that 2nd World War songs and early fifties hits are a better bet!!

    Every best wish for your future.
  8. DeborahBlythe

    DeborahBlythe Registered User

    Dec 1, 2006
    #8 DeborahBlythe, May 16, 2007
    Last edited: May 16, 2007
    Hello James,
    One day last year I was sitting in a park in the morning, writing my diary and there were some schoolchildren who turned up with their teacher to play games together. They had a huge plastic circular sheet, multicoloured, where the colours divided into segments.

    The children sat or stood around the circumference and played by tossing a soft ball on the sheet from one person to another, also running under the sheet and were given different roles depending on what colour they were holding onto. The games were repeated for I think 3 different sets of children.

    That same afternoon, I went to my mum's (then) care home and we were encouraged to come downstairs to play games with the other residents. To my amazement, they brought out a huge multicoured plastic sheet just like the one in the park and I found myself playing the very games that the primary kids had been playing.:D Of course I was pretty darned skilled at it having watched the kids in the morning;) The residents seemed to enjoy the game too because to make the soft ball move around didn't require much effort and they seemed to have fun being involved, waving the sheet up and down in time to music etc. Later they just played with a big soft ball, throwing it to one another in the circle, and also with balloons.

    You do have to be a bit careful though with these group activities. One year my mum (who used at one point in her life to teach physical education and never stopped seeing herself as sporty) lunged forward to catch a ball in a group game and fell on the floor, bruising herself. I don't blame the activities co-ordinator. No one can second -guess how much competitive spirit lingers on in older people:D .
    Make sure you know, as far as is possible enough about each resident's condition to gauge whether a game is suitable physically or not. You'd need to take advice from the lead care staff for that.

    You are so right about the ducks. Does the home allow pets, or have its own cat? Actually, my mum and other residents used to get a lot of pleasure from seeing the children of visitors running around. Some homes encourage links with local schools and the kids come in and sing carols at Christmas, and make cards and decorations for the residents at Easter.

    Nell, Daisy Daisy is still going to be on the turntable when I sign into a home, I'm sure! At my mum's home they seem to play Patsy Cline incessantly. Not sure whose taste that is catering to, not my mum's, but I like it personally, only not ad infinitem. Light classical music is a really good idea in my mum's case. I keep a digital radio in her room tuned to Classic FM because she used to absolutely love classical music. Asking the residents about what music they like is really important.

    People come from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures so it should be possible to try to find varying types of music for varying tastes.

    I will say, however, that the summer rock concert which was organised one year in the grounds of one of my mum's 'homes' was really an invasion of the homes facilities for the benefit of the staff. The volume was too loud and the residents had nowhere to escape to and no interest in the music. It did raise quite a lot of money for chairty, but they could have achieved the same effect and much enjoyment for the residents running something more mainstream, perhaps inviting a local opera group or local musicians to come in and play. (Oh that was another thing, they used to invite in a boogie woogie pianist who was about 20. He was a fabulous player but my mum used to go and bury herself in her room because she 'couldn't stand the noise'. I loved him! Hopefully by the time I need to go into care he will be still doing the rounds!)

    Local amateur singers and musicians often enjoy playing in care homes (because they are a captive audience:) ) Try to hear them performing somewhere else before bringing them in, and see what sort of audio equipment they use and whether they are sensitive about sound levels. Nothing worse than amateur singers with squeeky or howling mikes. The best ones will try to involve the residents too, of course. Singing seems to bring out amazing things in people.My mum, whose memroy had gone to pot several yesrs before would suddenly become totally word perfect with songs from the past. She could complete ( and even now still can sometimes) lyrics to favourite songs from years ago, whilst being oblivious to anything that had happened five minutes earlier. I think there is something truly magical about the effect that music has for some people with dementia.

    I really wish you every success in your job application. If there is one thing that needs developing for care home residents, it is proper activity and stimulation. I think it would make a lot of difference for them, and it's not easy to get right. You sound like a brilliant applicant and you deserve to succeed.

    Finally, try not to get downhearted if you don't get the job this time. See it as a very useful episode from which you will get good experience, and don't hesitate, if they turn you down, to ask them for feedback after the interview. That way you will see what things you need to brush up on for next time, assuming they are honest in their appraisal. If they aren't, then it wasn't worth working for them in the first place.
  9. Martyn

    Martyn Registered User

    Dec 18, 2006
    Hi James
    I have been an Activities Co-ordinator for nearly six months now(see my previous posts). I am still as enthusiastic as the day I started and actually enjoy going to work - something I hadn't done for several years.
    At the beginning I encouraged Group Activities such as Beetle Drives, Card Schools, Snakes and Ladders etc but with the majority of clients I found I ended up doing it for them. Some times it does work but keep it simple such as throwing a ball or balloon to a circle of clients but it is getting them into a circle in the first place which is the most demanding.
    It is very easy to fall into the trap of giving your time to the clients who are the easiest to entertain as you will find in the home that there are several different stages of dementia and suffers will all show different symptoms. You will have bed ridden clients who seem to stare at the ceiling and emit the occasional scream or groan. Remember they are entitled to your time as much as the mobile ones.
    From day one I wore a red T Shirt to work and I know for a fact that my clients recognise me as being apart from the carers. I would like to think that it is my "vibrant personality and good looks" but No - its definately the T Shirt!
    Now the good weather is here(at least it was) I have mown a patch of garden and bought a cheap croquet set. We have great fun playing this with the mobile people but once again make sure the carers get the less mobile clients up and in a wheelchair and outside.
    If you get the job James ease yourself in gradually. Read up on records so you can hold a conversation with your clients about their life history, friends and relatives - even if sometimes you think you are talking to yourself.
    Be patient with relatives, some of whom will have gone through hell before it has been realised that their parent was not responsible for their word and actions. Some of the things that have been said or done in the past can never be forgotten or forgiven.
    Some days you will go to work with a new idea and then find out it doesnt work. Dont get deflated because, a good thing about this job is, your clients will never remember you failed!
    Another point to remember is that, even in dementia, each of your clients has a personality of their own and you have to adapt to that. You will soon learn to nod and shake your head at the right times and throw in the occasional well worn phrase which they will definately relate to.
    Also get involved with meal times especially with those who can't feed themselves.
    Once again the conversation will, more often than not, be "one way" but again you will find that talking about subjects that your client remembers will very often get an unexpected reaction. This will endear you to the carers most of whom will be foreign people, as Brits, with one or two exceptions, would not do their job. You need them on your side, I work with Phillipinos and Polish people and I have completely changed my attitude to migrant workers!
    Finally James if you are successful, go for it with an open mind. Remember your clients, in the main, contributed to this country and are entitled to getting something back now that they are on the "back foot".
    I could go on all night but I wont!
    best regards
  10. jamesbrown333

    jamesbrown333 Registered User

    May 12, 2007
    Thank you everyone for your replies. Great post Martyn! You can go on all night if you want.:) If you have anymore info, please share. Your care home is very fortunate to have you.

    Thank you
  11. lady racer

    lady racer Registered User

    Mar 12, 2007
    northwest england

    Its wonderful that you are so enthusiastic and you want to learn all you can, the advice i would give is, to get a life history from the client using all resources such as family, friends, professionals and most important the client. This will help you to get to know the person as an individual which we all are, When you are doing activities always remember it is the taking part that matters, not the end result. There are many courses and books that can help you but there is no better place to start than this, i wish you well in your new job and if you need any advice, all you need to do is ask there is always help and advice available. GOOD LUCK in your new post.
  12. Lila13

    Lila13 Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    When you have music make sure there's a quiet place residents can go to if they don't want to listen to it. (My mother was happier listening to the music inside her head.

    When she looked as if she was doing nothing she was "going for a lovely country walk" or "going into my picture world, a world where there are no words, only pictures".

  13. Brucie

    Brucie Registered User

    Jan 31, 2004
    near London
    Lila is so right.

    There is nothing worse than seeing several residents sitting in a room with a radio on - generally too loud - and being able to do nothing about it, should it not be to their taste.

    This can be especially true if the care assistants have selected music of their own liking.

    Of course, the challenge is to be able to know when a resident doesn't like what is on offer.......
  14. Lila13

    Lila13 Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    I'm so angry that my mother was forced to spend her last few days in such an environment.

    I'm trying to find a poem, can't remember how it starts, about an old woman who, after a lifetime of "doing", only wants to "do nothing whatever for years and years".


  15. Martyn

    Martyn Registered User

    Dec 18, 2006
    Sorry Lila I have to ask -Why didn't you do something about it?
  16. Grannie G

    Grannie G Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 3, 2006

    Ouch Martyn!!!

    Have you any understanding of the position of families who have issues with the homes their nearest and dearest are in?

    Do you know how unpopular people become who complain about the way homes are run.

    Do you realize how defensive home staff become over the slightest complaint.

    Do you know the biggest fear of relatives, following any complaint they may make, is whether or not it will have a negative effect on the care thier family member receives.

    Are you able to put your excellent theory, of being patient with relatives, in practice.
  17. Martyn

    Martyn Registered User

    Dec 18, 2006
    Hi GG
    Yes I know exactly what you mean but my understanding is that most nursing homes now have an Activities Co-ordinator. It is our job to try to provide a better quality of life in the home.
    I can only speak for myself and I am no Saint believe me? From the time I arrive at work I get things going. I can't be in two places at once but if I am with a client then the remainder in the lounge have either a video to watch(Seen Sound of Music 100 times but it still works) or soft background music.
    If I was in the position of being a "concerned relative" I would have a "Quiet Word" with the Care Home Manager and express my concerns.
    As for it having a detrimental effect on the client - sorry that is utter rubbish, believe me it would be the opposite.
    I can speak from experience regarding the "being patient with relatives" theory. I have spoken to several who have severed all contact with their parents for whatever reason. I am always sympathetic and tell them I don't expect miracles but ask them to try to remember when times were good-most will have pleasant memories even if it dates back from childhood.
    Whether you are paying for care or not you are entitled to value for money and if you feel you arent getting it -COMPLAIN
  18. DeborahBlythe

    DeborahBlythe Registered User

    Dec 1, 2006
    Dear Martyn, I'm really sorry, but you are out of touch on this. Sylvia hit the nail on the head when she listed the reasons why relatives find it hard to complain. It is simply a very risky thing to do. I know from bitter experience, and actually, I only once put in a formal written complaint about my relative's care. What happened to her was extremely unedifying but in short she was evicted twice by the same organisation . The care home owners have the upper hand and if they do not like being held to account they will find ways to terminate the relationship with the resident. I'm afraid that if you think otherwise, you are being quite naive. Sorry.

    The difficulty in finding alternative provision, the lack of choice in some areas of the country, and especially with regard to dementia care, where, in my opinion there is quite a basic and sometimes breathtakingly less-than-basic standard of provision means that for me, personally, I would go to almost any length to avoid putting my mother in jeopardy of eviction again. I raise concerns in the most low key way possible and it is usually not effective for more than the duration of one visit, but I am extremely reluctant to show the real level of concern that I have as often as it occurs.
  19. Lila13

    Lila13 Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    Not sure how much of all this to repeat as I'm sure some think I've said too much about it all already.

    I was frightened of the people running that hospital, but thought she'd only be in there a short time anyway, I didn't see any actual cruelty of the sort you'd report immediately, it was physically impossible for me to remove her as she had quite suddenly become unable to walk, of course I thought she'd be safe there at least for a few days, we were going to have a meeting there a few days later with the social worker and one of the nurses to decide where she was to go next so I was just making mental notes for that meeting.


  20. Brucie

    Brucie Registered User

    Jan 31, 2004
    near London
    The recent posts in this thread demonstrate, it seems to me, the difference between theory and practice.

    Yes, of course we should complain when things are not what we want for our loved one

    No, we don't necessarily do so because we are uncertain of the consequences, and the worst scenario is one that causes even more problems for our loved one.

    Care home staff generally have written procedures for everything they do, and it must be easy for them to believe that they cover everything.

    However, there is always the human nature side, the different agendas people have, the fact that the relative wants the best care for their loved one - but the home has to cater for 20, 40, 60 other residents, all of whom provide them with challenges.

    We've been fortunate in Jan's home, but I have also gone out of my way to forge relationships with the staff at all levels. I tend to try and change anything that is not quite right by chatting individually to people, rather than making a complaint.

    As I say, we have a very good care home.

    When the music is too loud, I turn it down. when Jan is wheeled into some entertainment that is too loud, I wheel her somewhere quieter. When she needs something, I either get it for her or ask the staff to do it. If, as this week, I notice a rash - I ask for the doctor to see her.

    If I'm not there regularly, I can't do these little course corrections, and such things will always be needed because the loved one is no longer at home.

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