Whose Job Is It Anyway? The Role of Activity Staff within Care Homes
Two Approaches to Residential Care Activities
Typically, there are two camps that residential care services fall into when it comes to employing activities staff. Many care homes recruit one or more staff whose main responsibility is to oversee the planning and sourcing of both in-house and external activities. Some providers, on the other hand, choose a whole-service approach where activities are the responsibility of all care staff in the service.
Pros & Cons
There are pros and cons to either approach. For services with specific appointed activity staff, there can be a “that’s not my job” attitude from care and support staff when asked for some support with, especially complex activities. It can also mean that during times when activity staff are off duty or off sick, activities move down the priority list. Activities staff often report feeling that they are being pulled in lots of directions, as they are under pressure to provide and support activities for everyone in the service, often people with widely different needs and interests. This can make the role stressful, and often means that activities end up suiting those who actively participate, rather than those who are more difficult to reach or engage.
On a positive note, having a dedicated activities team tends to mean that those in the role have the personality traits or skills that help them to confidently organise and approach people. They are likely to have a particularly good understanding of why activities are crucial for quality of life in a care setting, and will usually have creative interests that help them to get the most out of their budget and time. Conversely, a whole-service approach relies on all members of staff being involved in care home activities. If the team works and communicates well together, then this can mean that the burden of organising activities is greatly reduced, and the work can be shared so that different people’s skills can be used effectively. It can also mean that, as a team, there is a better understanding of the role of activities in the care home and their importance. In practice though, this is rarely the full picture.
There are two well-known psychological principles known as Diffusion of Responsibility, and Social Loafing. Both theories describe that people feel less personally responsible for something when they are part of a larger group of other responsible people. Often few or no individual members will act, on the assumption that other members of the group will have done so already. It is no surprise then that activities tend to fall to the same, few, proactive people in the team, leading to frustration and stress.If the two staffing options have varying benefits and drawbacks, what about developing a compromise between the two? For this to happen there needs to be a strong team-working dynamic, and a culture of good communication and information sharing. It should be possible for care staff to share ideas, contacts or opportunities with the Activities Organiser quickly and easily, and vice versa. Some Activities Organisers report that they rarely work closely with care staff as their roles are so different, but there is no reason why this should be set in stone. All staff should understand why meaningful and personalised activities are so important for those they support, and the many benefits for not just service users but for relatives, the whole team, and the care home environment. This boils down to proactive leadership from service managers to ensure that everyone understands that the success of activities in the service is everyone’s responsibility, with recognition given to those who make efforts to engage with and support the success of activities in the care home. This allows a dedicated Activities Organiser the necessary time and opportunity to use their particular skills to lead that process, with the support of a team alongside them and not simply behind them.
At StoriiCare we understand the importance of providing engaging and meaningful activities for everyone you support. However, we know that this can be difficult to achieve, especially if you have a limited time frame allocated for activities.