One of the things we come up against time and again when speaking to homes, managers and activity co-ordinators about activities is the issue of cost. Budgets for activities remain frustratingly low for many homes and hospitals and it’s a constant juggling act to try and rationalise what you’re spending against the value activities obviously deliver for your residents.
By Chris Harding, founder, The Daily Sparkle
The Daily Sparkle, for instance, is actually very cheap, when you consider for £59 a month it provides daily topics, quizzes, crafts, music and activities, saving hours of planning and organisation time, plus carer’s notes to help get more mileage out of each topic. That’s, on average, 30 different activity sessions, which could last up to two hours, and beyond - especially when you consider how other staff and family members can also use the Sparkles to chat to residents. It’s not even £2 a day. (The average care home entertainer costs £54 an hour. That’s £54 for one hour, once a month). But, when some homes are working on a budget of £60 a month, even £59 can seem like too much. I do understand.
It is staggering really, when there is so much evidence now about how valuable stimulation and enjoyment are to the lives of the elderly and those with dementia, that we are all still having to fight so hard to justify what we’re doing.
Sadly, the money allocated to activities varies wildly. We’ve seen tiny homes with a £700 or £800 budget; homes with 30 residents and a budget of £300; and homes with 70 residents and no budget at all. You could work at one home and feel like you were trying to scrape together enough coppers to afford a few minutes of entertainment each month. And then go to another home where the budgets leave you with a world and wealth of possibility.
As always, it comes down to value. And by that I mean ‘value’ in all senses of the word – the way you and your job is valued; the way activities are valued; the value of your resources; the value for money from your budget. Value. It counts for everything.
And so, those homes that value activities are blessed with a decent budget, and their activities team are able to offer a real quality of life to their residents. They can do a good job because the job they’re doing is valued. On the other hand, homes that don’t consider activities to be worth anything, are drastically under-funded in terms of activities, they simply cannot offer the same quality of life to their residents. They just can’t.
I’ve spoken to homes who, alongside all their activities duties, have to organise fundraising events to pay for the activities sessions, because the management will not provide any budget at all. And so co-ordinators are so busy organising events to raise money to pay for resources for their sessions, that they spend most of their time behind a desk and on a phone. They never see the residents. There is no time for activities because they’re so busy fundraising for activities. It’s madness.
And often, if there is a budget, it comes from the marketing department – who only consider activities useful if they can provide a couple of glossy candid camera moments for their brochure. Activities that look good, rather than are good are prioritised. The marketing department look for the shiny, shiny activity that they can put in their brochures to say ‘didn’t we do well?’. And once they’ve got the material they want, the money is no longer available. And the activity co-ordinators – who know their clients, locality and community best - end up frustrated because they don’t have a free hand to design their own activities, to serve their residents in the right way.
Having worked with and met so many inspiring activity co-ordinators, this issue of value and budgets concerns me. What you do is not just ‘important’ or ‘useful’ or ‘nice’. It is crucial. It is literally essential to the health and wellbeing of your residents. Without it, they will fade away. They will eventually retreat from this world. What you do is vital. Never forget it.
Of course we believe The Daily Sparkle offers value for money. Not only is it filled with great new topics every day, as well as numerous resources, notes for carers, musical CDs, quizzes and more, but, crucially, we also understand what you’re battling against each day. And we will continue to do everything we can to help and support you in this. Which means not having raised our prices for ten years. It means running training courses to help you deal with resistance to activities in your home and to help encourage the whole home to support you. It means continuing to improve what we’re doing, and where we can, add to what we can offer without passing the cost onto you. We are a social enterprise, which means we always put people before profits. We put you and your residents first. Always. Find out more about how the Sparkles could help, and sign up for our free trial here.
And keep up the good work! You are making such a difference to people’s lives.