I have a system. As you may have seen from the ‘Sessions’ page of this website, I offer a Taster Session at a discounted price so that care homes can try the sessions and see if they work for them. After this Taster Session, I ask the activity or care staff who were taking part in the session, how THEY thought it went. I then ask them - is that your usual level of response? And most of the time the reply is - ”No! That was so much better than usual!”
Want to know why? My biggest reasons as to why Join The Circle dance sessions for elderly care home residents are so well received?
There’s a few different things that I, and my JTC co-ordinators use to our advantage to help get the best from our participants.
The first is that we’re outsiders. The only thing we do, the only thing that residents associate with us with, is running these sessions. We come in and bring our energy and enthusiasm from outside. We are unaffected by a difficult breakfast time or an argument that happened over coffee before we arrived. Every care home I’ve ever known relies on it’s staff to be multi-trained - no one just has the one job to do - which means that even if your job is ‘activity staff’, chances are you have performed some sort of personal care. Now, you can be the most caring, considerate and kind staff member in the world, but that doesn’t take away any negative feelings the resident may have about receiving personal care. None of us is looking forward to a time where we have to rely on somebody else to feed, clothe and toilet us. No matter how much we will need that help, it’s still a difficult thing to receive.
As outsiders, we are not a reminder to the resident about how much they depend on others. There’s no negative connotation, unconscious or conscious about how they see themselves. We show them a way they can be independent, and achieve something, no matter their physical ability.
The second biggest reason is that the whole session is designed to ensure the lasting feeling from participants is positivity. You know the old adage - ‘Leave your audience wanting more!’ Well that’s this in a nut shell. After much experimentation with session lengths, I know that for dancing, half an hour is the golden time for participation. A very common issue with Dementia sufferers (and lots of non-Dementia sufferers!) is a short attention span and we all know that if something becomes hard, our enthusiasm for it wanes. The session length is designed to be at the optimum length for our participants so that they finish on a high! Next time our co-ordinators walk in to the home, participants remember that feeling - even if it’s the only thing they remember.
There are lots of other ways JTC sessions are designed to get the most from participants and therefore have a very good participation rate. These can be discovered either by booking a JTC session and seeing for yourself! Or by training with me to become a co-ordinator (I’ll share ALL my secrets with you then!) but the last thing I want to talk about here is music.
All day, every day, music. Music is great at reaching people - whether they be Dementia sufferers or not. It allows us to connect with emotions and memories, some of which may have been buried for some time. The music in each of my Join The Circle dance sessions has been chosen to help people find out about different parts of the world - things they may not have heard about before, or which bring back memories of travels and life events. Sometimes the memories evoked by a piece of music have nothing to do with where the music is from or who wrote it, but something completely unique to a participant. That’s the truly magical thing about music - you can hear the same song again and again and each time it means something different depending on what’s happened and how you’re feeling that day. I can’t take any credit for the effect music has on our participants, but I can sure as hell use it to my advantage!
Want to see how participants feel about Join The Circle dance sessions? I document different participants stories and experiences over on my Instagram account, which you can access here.