Activity co-ordinators and care home managers are always trying to find more outside contractors to come in to their home and provide entertainment or an activity for their residents. These could be anybody from actors putting on a pantomime, to singers, to visits from an organisation providing pet therapy. Why? The residents’ response to an activity put on by an outside consultant is usually higher, for a number of reasons!
Firstly, an outside consultant is a new face. It may grow to become a familiar face, but it’s not a face that’s associated with the day-to-day life of the care home. In other words if someone has helped you with your personal care; say, helped you get on and off the toilet that morning, that’s what you associate with them. If the same person tries to instigate an exercise class, you’re not likely to see them as an expert in this field, and therefore not take what they are doing as seriously. If an outsider comes in, someone who the resident associates solely with the exercise class, this person would be seen as an expert in this area, and therefore is likely to illicit a higher response rate.
Being a new or different face has other benefits. As much as I’d like to believe that if I needed personal care, I would respond to this in a stoic manner, accepting the reality of the situation and therefore putting aside any embarrassment or fear at someone seeing me in such a vulnerable position; in all likelihood I think that would be very tough. Joining in a class or activity with an outside consultant, gives participants a chance to take on a different role for a while. They are not a dependant who needs help but someone who can let loose, be good at something, achieve something and be a part of something.
From a practical standpoint, an outside consultant is an extra pair of hands. We’ve all had days at work where everything is hectic and it can feel a bit like you’re putting out fires. In a care home, having an outside consultant coming in and conducting an activity, means care staff get a bit of a breather and a bit more time and space to catch up.
I’d always suggest that there is at least one member of the care staff or activities team present during a session as I’ve found the sessions run much better this way. But to have one staff member assigned to a specific group of residents, does free up more care staff for other tasks.
Lastly, an outside consultant establishes a link between the care home residents and their outside community. I know we’d all like to think that everyone has visitors; members of their family or friends who come to visit at regular intervals, but sadly, for a lot of care home residents this isn’t the case. Outside consultants come in with news of the outside world and help people feel more connected with what’s going on outside their immediate environment. It can help prevent some of the feelings of isolation and detachment that a lot of care home residents feel.
This last issue of isolation and loneliness has become so important that it is now a requirement from The Care Quality Commission (the care home governing body that inspects acre homes in the UK) that all care homes make an effort to establish links within their local community. In their latest update to their Key Lines Of Enquiry (the way in which a care home is measured) they state that if a home is to receive an ‘Outstanding’ grade in the way that it responds to people’s needs, it needs to evidence that
“The service is an important part of its community. It develops community links to reflect the changing needs and preferences of the people who use it.”
And for or a ‘Good’ grade,
"There are good links to local community resources that reflect the needs and preferences of the people who use the service."
A home is seen to need improvement if
“Community links are not always well maintained or are the right ones for people.”
There is still a bit of a culture of cost cutting in some care homes, although I’m noticing it less and less. It can sometimes lead to outside consultants being cut from the activity program within a home. But with the addition of CQC’s KLOES to all of the other benefits to hiring an outside consultant, it’s kind of a no brainer. Especially if the activity is affordably priced.
When care homes hire Join The Circle Co-ordinators they’re getting a huge return on a relatively small investment as the sessions are priced so that most care homes can afford regular sessions (be that weekly, fortnightly or monthy). I always advise my trainees on how to price their sessions, so that care homes can keep affording Join the Circle Sessions, whoever is running them. Which works out well for both the homes who get a high quality, CQC box ticking activity, that their residents love, whilst Co-ordinators get repeat bookings.