5 tips for making creative activities a team effort

Earlier this year, we posted the 5 most common challenges that carers have told us they come across when delivering activities for people living with dementia.

We promised that we would address these challenges, and so the first one we are going to look at is:

1. Getting other staff to join in and support your dementia activities.

This is the BIG one. You are the person responsible for delivering activities and you are left to do it alone by other staff, and an‘us and them’ mentality has crept in. You organize a singing session and ask other staff to help you gather participants. Before you know it, you have a room of 20 people and other staff are taking a break. Or you are in the middle of a relaxing activity, which you have worked hard to create the right atmosphere for and suddenly the tea trolley comes crashing in and orders are being taken for the evening meal. Sound familiar?!

Here are 5 suggestions of how you could overcome this challenge:

1. Timing. Plan your activity sessions that need the most support from other staff members when you know that supportive people are on the rota. Or for when the medication trolley isn’t due to make it’s loud appearance.

2. Signage. Put up a sign at the entrance to your activities space and state that people are welcome to come through, but they MUST enter into the spirit of your activity session. For example, if you are running a seaside themed session, they have to pretend that they are enjoying the warm weather. Or if it’s a dance hall themed session, they can waltz across the room.

3. Communication. Let people know in advance what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how they can help you do it. Perhaps you could produce sheets for each activity session that give this information out in the same format each time. This way, staff will grow to expect them and be familiar with how to read them.

4. Recruitment. You know why activities are important for your residents, but do your colleagues? They may not have the same understanding of well being, or the role that activities play in bringing joy and life to your clients that you do. Do they know the value of making the most of and celebrating the present moment? You need to recruit your colleagues to your cause! A good place to start would be suggesting to your colleagues that they become dementia friends, or of course attending some brightshadow training.

5. Impact. Why not start recording the difference your activities make to the days and lives of your clients? This could be as simple as asking everyone how they are feeling before the activity session, and then again after the activity session to see if mood has improved. Note down any particularly significant moments for individuals, such as a person sitting down with you for 20 minutes when they would normally walk around a lot and not engage. Find a public place to display these things, and ask other colleagues to contribute to it to. They will hopefully see that they have the potential to impact peoples’ lives for the better even more than they currently do.

We know we haven’t given you a series of quick-fixes. We know it will still be a battle-and we applaud you for fighting it! But know that you are not alone. Why not join our Facebook group of activities co-ordinators to share experiences and encourage one another?

You can also join our mailing list for news of other events and resources that we produce to help you continue doing the excellent work you do, and to feel less alone.