The Importance of One-to-One Time

Your Questions Answered: “My manager doesn’t like me spending too much time one-on-one with residents. She’s much happier when I have a room full of residents doing the more obvious activities. How can I demonstrate the importance of this time, and make sure I can still do it?”

Helen Johns, our lead trainer, writes…

This is something I hear a lot about whilst working with activity coordinators. There are two sides to this problem – one is that people can place too much importance on trying to provide lots of crowd-pleasing activities; and the other is not recognising the importance, and therapeutic nature, of meaningful one-to-one (1:1) time.

It is easy to assume ‘the more the merrier’ when thinking about getting maximum value from activity coordinator time – and this is a topic we will discuss further in the December newsletter – but for this month, I want to concentrate on the importance of 1:1 time and how, for some people, this may be the only way to engage in meaningful activity.

This may include people who:

  • Don’t like bigger groups and have never enjoyed bigger groups.
  • Don’t want the traditional entertainment, hobby or games-type activities.
  • Experience any anxiety, sadness or depression.
  • Have communication difficulties which makes it hard for them to express themselves.
  • Can’t access some locations due to physical barriers (eg those who are confined to bed, unable to access outdoors etc).
  • Have other reasons (cognitive, physical or emotional) to prefer low-key experiences.

For those who have shown us that this is their preference, 1:1 time may be more therapeutically appropriate. We also need to let those we work with – including managers, care staff, nurses, and domestic staff – know that dedicating time to those who need this type of support is a valid use of your time. Most importantly, as an AC, you need to have a way to protect this time.

Here are some suggestions as to how you can make sure 1:1 time is protected:

  • Explain to staff (perhaps in a staff meeting) the importance of this part of your role.
  • Allocate time on your activity planner to 1:1 time. If this time is booked in advance, it is far more likely to happen.
  • Make a list of those residents who would most benefit from 1:1 time and keep a track of who you have seen over a week, month etc, to make sure that everyone gets their time.
  • Dont let 1:1 time be hijacked by others. It is very easy for people to consider this as optional time which can be interrupted, postponed or cancelled altogether in favour of doing some other task.
  • Be disciplined yourself. When you have time pressures, the first thing that you might let slip is this essential work.
  • Where possible, enlist the support of others for 1:1 time. Many care staff and others will enjoy the opportunity to take time out to share time with residents.
  • Evaluate what works and what could be improved. This will help you continually improve this part of your activity provision.

The importance of 1:1 time is emphasised as part of our new course, Therapeutic Approaches to Activity. Watch out for details on our training page soon.