‘Ask Jan’ – The Importance of Activities

Dear Jan,

I am the activities coordinator at a large care home with beautiful and spacious facilities where our group activities are conducted. My question to you is – how do we explain to care staff that they are also responsible for prompting and encouraging service users to participate in planned activities? Doing so provides a change of environment and socialisation with others; it is so important for well-being. Also, I consider it very important that service users are not bedbound. Even those that lack mental capacity should be encouraged to spend more time out of their bed for at least short periods of time on a daily basis, or at least take their meals with others in the dining room, to prevent isolation.

I have led activity workshops for staff to demonstrate how the simplest activity – such as offering a gentle hand massage, sitting beside service users and talking to them about past hobbies and interests, reading a book over a cup of tea, talking in the garden, etc – can get service users to engage.

Care staff have been provided with resources that can be used to conduct simple activities throughout the day, such as ball games, books, CD players, newspapers, board games and puzzles. Care staff could also provide activity by involving service users in simple household chores, such as folding fresh laundry or setting dining tables. The list of activities that care staff are able to offer is endless, in my opinion. Please could I have your help and support on explaining to the management team and care staff that activities should be offered seven days a week, throughout the day (including evening), and not just solely by the activities staff? How do I explain that activities is a whole home approach?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Jayshri, Activities Coordinator


Dear Jayshri,

Thank you for contacting me. It sounds like you have provided every opportunity to encourage staff to provide meaningful activities for your residents. You have some great ideas in place, it just sounds like the staff are not engaging with you. This, I know, is very frustrating, and it can be a tricky one to solve. You have provided all the tools, now you just need them to use them!

Many staff see activities as structured group events that are on a programme and that happen daily, often twice a day. They don’t realise that they are the ones who cover the whole day and night and that their role is vital to the emotional well-being of each individual.

I suggest you put your concerns to your manager. Involve yourself in daily handovers and ensure that relevant information is passed over at this time. You can then reinforce who will benefit from coming out to structured sessions.

Do you have a chance to voice what you are trying to achieve at staff meetings? There needs to be time for you to promote what you have in place and a chance to encourage staff to get involved.

I suggest new staff should have activity provision included in the induction training programme and that they shadow you for a few sessions.

Can you make a member of the care staff an activity champion? Similar to a dementia champion or dignity champion, you could assign key members to promote the importance of this. Include evening and night staff as they all have a role to play, and they can lead by example when you are not there. Have regular meetings with them to see what they are able to factor in on their shifts.

Ask your manager to set aside a block of time when each staff member is required to engage with residents. Suggest times when there is less pressure on staff, maybe in the afternoon, in between mealtimes. This may help break down the attitude of ‘them and us’, and allow them to engage with residents without being pressured to provide ‘care’. Care staff can be under huge pressures of time; by allocating set times when they are allowed to interact, they may feel more able to follow some of your ideas.

Remember to involve all staff and not just carers. If the receptionist is seen engaging with a resident who is helping with simple office tasks, the handyman chatting to residents or the laundry staff providing a bag of socks to be paired, the rest of the team may begin to understand how vital it is to have a whole team approach. Encourage kitchen staff to sit and help service users to fold napkins or shell peas. Often staff may think that management will think they are shirking their duties – reassure them and ask your manager to do the same. Happy and mentally fulfilled residents will eat better, sleep better and generally be more relaxed and content. When you get this right, the whole team benefits!

When you provide training sessions, try getting a member of staff to be the resident. Sit them in a wheelchair and you act as the carer. Provide basic interaction. Put down a cup of tea and a biscuit and a newspaper and walk off.

Then do the same again, but chat to the person – comment on the weather, or what they’re wearing. Pick up the newspaper and talk about one of the stories. Talk about anything that comes to mind. Just chat. I am sure you can make up many scenarios such as this. Afterwards, ask the carer how they felt after each session. Undoubtedly, they will feel valued and respected when you have taken the time – even two minutes – to interact.

Ensure that activity provision is recorded on care plans and that staff have to then factor this into their job role. This provides evidence of what is being achieved. If it is noted on the care plan that the residents need to have some time out of their bed daily, then the staff are obliged to make sure this happens.

Provide small rewards for staff who go the extra mile. A thank you and a bar of chocolate from yourself or management goes a long way and starts to build the right ethos throughout the home.

It may also be worth reaching out to the local community to try and build up a team of volunteers who may be able to fill some of the gaps by providing one-to-one activities, such as hand massages or reading.

Finally, mention to management that the CQC inspectors will be looking for evidence of a whole home approach, and it is in the best interests of the whole team to embrace this.

I do hope these ideas help. Unfortunately, I don’t offer workshops, but if you need any more advice or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Have a look in your local area to see if anyone provides activity coordinator catch-up meetings. Maybe you could organise this in your own home, for fellow coordinators to come along and share how they work and workshop ideas if there is nothing already in place. They are a great way of meeting people who understand the same pressures that you are facing, and they give you all an idea of what is working in other care settings.

I hope this is helpful.

Best wishes,


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