Your Questions Answered: “I often accompany residents on routine hospital appointments. How can I use this time together to be more fulfilling for them?
Helen Johns, our lead trainer, says: “It’s great that you’re thinking like this. Sometimes the most routine aspects of our day are a great opportunity for shared experiences and some time to chat. I often accompany a lady to her regularly podiatry appointments, and we have made this part of our regular routine and I always ensure we have the time to chat about lots of different things and turn the trip into a bit of an outing. Here are some ideas that you or a member of staff may want to consider when taking residents out to hospital.
- Make sure the person looks well presented and is wearing clothes that they would like to be seen in. My lady always looks glamorous with hair and make-up on and matching jewellery. You don’t need to go that far, but ensuring that the person feels presentable is important.
- Make sure you have a suitable snack and drink with you. Sometimes appointments run over and it is important that the person doesn’t become hungry or dehydrated.
- Take a magazine or a book for you both to read. The Daily Sparkles or the Monthly magazine are perfect for this, as they are in large print and have topics that will stimulate conversation. It is even better if you can personalise this to something that the person is particularly interested in (e.g. gardening, sewing)
- A large handbag, or similar, with any continence products and spare clothing is helpful. None of us would like to get ‘caught short’ and if we do, we need to be made comfortable as discretely and as soon as possible.
- Make the journey interesting. Your route may take you past interesting places such as parks, schools, churches, shops, perhaps these places are familiar to the resident or there is something new you’d like to show them. You may want to comment on the weather, the flower, trees. Simply pointing these out can make the journey much more enjoyable.
- If using private transport – put on a suitable CD. I’ve relied on music or quiz CDs for many in-car karaoke and question sessions with my lady.
In the waiting room
- Once at your destination, it is likely that you’ll spend time in the waiting room. Sometimes these are bare and uninspiring areas, so it is important for us to try and make the wait more pleasurable.
- This is where all your planning will pay off and having your ‘kit’ will help. Reading your magazine/book together, having something to drink can generate lots of discussion.
All of the above might seem simple, but it is very important, and not just for passing the time, but for building relationships between you and the resident. It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes, I will see someone being escorted by a carer and my heart sinks when I see that carer texting or talking on their phone for the whole time and there is no engagement with the resident. An opportunity to make someone feel good has been lost.
Our focus should be on the person we are with and making them feel cared for and supported. Our input can make a routine visit into a pleasurable experience.
I’m sure you will have lots of other ideas as to how you can make these visits personalised and fun. Please take some time to share them on our Facebook Page or in our Activity Coordinators Group. We always welcome your ideas and suggestions.
Helen Johns is the lead trainer for The Daily Sparkle Activity Coordinator Training and has been developing and delivering our courses since April 2017. As well as working for The Daily Sparkle, Helen runs an activity coordinator forum in her local area, provides training and consultancy for care homes in relation to activity and wellbeing and works as an ‘Expert by Experience’ for CQC inspections.