Ever thought about changing the uniform of the Lifestyle Carer to one similar to what Liza Minnelli is wearing?
I have witnessed hundreds of lifestyle sessions at the nursing home at close range and I believe I have discovered the ‘secret’ to this role. To make the leap from being a good lifestyle carer to a great one it is not just about rolling out an endless range of activities and games it is primarily about the personality of that person. In my opinion they need to be ‘entertainer’ first and foremost, a brilliant conversationalist, super positive, intuitive and switched on to the room dynamics. I have seen many different carers perform the same activities and the impact they have on the residents.
I am in awe of the No.1 carer (who I will call ‘Liza’) who turns up each morning and within seconds transforms the energy & vibe of the communal room from morbid and boring to a vaudeville cabaret. I have to admit that at first I was taken aback by her ‘out there’ style when we first placed Dad in the nursing home. I thought she was potentially a loose cannon and so outrageous that she was in the wrong job and could be a risk to residents. How wrong was I?….
Liza is not only vivacious and can almost talk under water, she has the ability to detect any resident who is not engaged and finds a way to involve them or look after them if they are not having a good day. It is what she says and does that is important, and is not actually about the activity. The activity is merely a prop to start conversations and entertain. Liza makes handing out tea and biscuits fun as she talks about her failed cooking experiences and jumps on any reaction from a resident to explore another avenue of dialogue.
To give you an example – this week she encountered a ‘male’ resident with his arm stuck in his cardigan and he was all twisted up with only his elbow popping through the opening of the sleeve. Most of us would say “oh Mr Johnson, what have you done? Let me fix that up for you”.
This is how Liza handled the situation:
She ran up to the resident and yelled out (for everyone to here) “Oh ‘Mrs Jonhson’ your baby is crowning!!!….keep pushing …keep pushing…we need to get your baby out before morning tea arrives”. Everyone was laughing and enjoying the moment and whilst not everyone understood the joke, they ‘felt’ the fun and frivolity and laughed along as Liza adjusted the resident who felt really special because he was the centre of attention.
What worries me is that Liza could possibly be viewed by family members as not providing care in the way us family members are conditioned to imagine it. Quiet, controlled and calm. I can see someone complaining to Management about Liza if they walked in and watched her in mid flight. This would be a tragedy and the residents would dearly miss her if she was ever transferred based on a misguided complaint.
My message??…. Lifestyle is about engagement and entertainment and when we judge the performance of the lifestyle carer we should be looking at the faces of the residents for the answers.