“There is no standard day in the life of an Activities Co-ordinator. The main lesson I have learnt over the years is that flexibility is key: every older person is different, and every event is, too.”
Tamara Juckes is Activities and Volunteers coordinator at Sunrise of Banstead. As a former specialist carer, she embodies the bridge between care and support and activities – meaning she knows exactly how the different departments in a care home can best work together to involve each and every resident in an engaging and meaningful programme of events.
Activities are a hugely important part of an older person’s life in a care setting, so it is vital to make sure they have a diverse and colourful calendar of events to choose from. “
Understanding what residents like and dislike is key to making them feel like they are at the centre of everything that is happening in their care home,” Tamara says. “Getting to know your participants is the same as with any relationship – the more time you spend with an older person, the more you will understand them.”
Pulling together a successful event involves many different people and organisations – and so even if you know exactly what needs to be done, there is plenty of scope for things to go wrong! This means that preparation is everything, according to Tamara. But at the same time, one of the aspects she enjoys most is adjusting to change:
"My job is a constant learning curve - because flexibility is so important, and because every resident is unique, I go into every day expecting to learn something new and have my assumptions overturned.
As part of her role, Tamara pushes herself to find innovative ways of improving residents’ experiences: from teaching a resident who is 101 years old how to use her iPad, to inspiring residents to form their own choir – for which she sourced a voice coach who worked with the residents for over ten weeks, to prepare them for hosting their own Christmas concert.
She also puts a particular emphasis on empowering residents to use their own skills and resources – which she says are always rich and varied, reflecting everyone’s individual life story – and lead activities themselves. This might include one gentleman resident organising a regular board games and cards session on Saturday mornings, or one lady running the bistro and the Monday sherry socials after previously being wheelchair-bound.
“We also encourage residents to pair up, so that everyone has a ‘buddy’ to get to know. Putting people together who share the same hobbies and interests can make a huge difference,” she says. Having a buddy will encourage residents to attend more events and ensure that they remain integrated in the care home community – and the local community, whom Tamara seeks to involve in her events at every possible opportunity.
The purpose of organising events in care settings is making sure residents have a great time – and so Tamara considers it essential to capture the moment by taking photos, to help residents celebrate and remember the experiences long after. Staff will use the photos to spark engaging conversation with the residents later, and they are also a lovely way of showing family members what their relative has been getting up to.
“For me, working social care is a huge honour, and also a great responsibility. People show enormous faith in you when they entrust you with the care of their loved one. I make sure to honour their trust by providing our residents with the best possible experiences every day of the week.”