By Gillian Hesketh MA of Happy Days Dementia Workshop & Nostalgic Design comments:
There was an atmosphere in the room. Not the grey murmur of voices prior to a training day packed with power point presentations, overhead projectors, flip charts and text heavy handouts. No, the atmosphere was bright and lively, busy with chatter and the sound of shuffling notepads. A group of energetic bodies jostled about, their expectant expressions challenging me to take their owners somewhere interesting for the rest of the day. But these weren’t just any energetic bodies, they belonged to Borough Care’s newly appointed ALFs – and their body language told me, that they were ready for the challenge.
A Happy Days Social Activity Workshop is exactly what it says on the label. A hands-on workshop full of thoughtful and practical ways to engage with older people and people living with dementia; understanding how to recognise unspoken signs of needs; finding new ways to really get to know residents, discovering meaningful and moments-in-time activities for well-being.
And what exactly is an ALF, I hear you saying. The reason for the abbreviation is simple – it’s a wordy title and thankfully, the abbreviation is easier to write, type or say – especially for me, who would probably have said it over a hundred times during the interactive workshop which was about to take place. ALF stands for Activity Lifestyle Facilitator; the new role Borough Care has created to ensure social life for their residents is thoroughly enriched.
Let’s take a look at this new role: ALFs will be responsible for everyday engagement with residents. Of course, communication is an important part of daily life and whilst Borough Care is determined that positive interactions take place between residents and all staff; ALFs will have time to really get to know each resident so that everyone can experience enjoyable moments every day.
Finding out about a resident’s character, interests and life story is the basis of good communication. ALFs will be using the Happy Days themed memory boxes, nostalgic prompts and memory joggers; life story response books to share with residents, carers, families and friends – a valuable tool for recording personal history, favourites, hobbies, likes and dislikes to help plan entertaining and meaningful days.
ALFs will be including families and friends in projects, events and day to day activities, bringing the residential community together. Visitors sometimes express difficulty in finding something to talk about or do with the person they are visiting. Prompting long term memories can often bring about stories to share and ALFs will have a selection of nostalgic games and memorabilia available to help visitors enjoy spending time with their loved one.
Nostalgic wall art and displays can help initiate conversations between residents, carers and visitors. Establishing meaningful environments around a home to stimulate interaction, encourage eating or help direction can be part of the lifestyle facilitator’s role and Happy Days Nostalgic Design is always on hand to advise on themes or help define the best choices in nostalgic materials.
Everyone at Borough Care knows that the care home is ‘the resident’s home’ – residents are often involved in decoration and wall art choices – and don’t be surprised if you come across a sports area, village store, market street or old fashioned sweet shop. You’ll find gents lounges with classic cars and ladies hairdressing salons with Woman’s Realm, dining rooms with market scenes, bus stops, library corners or corridors lined with royalty or celebrity favourites.
Responsible for the daily, weekly and monthly activity calendar, ALFs will be planning entertainment and trips out alongside exercise sessions, music, dancing, crafts and more. They’ll also be looking for volunteers who could interest residents with appealing pastimes: Reading the newspapers or magazines – Gardening activities – Knitting – Art – Pat-a-pet or just chatting with residents.
Keeping residents busy and engaged in their favourite pastimes is priority for an ALF. That’s why Borough Care are committed to training, workshops and forums where ALFS and creative companies like Happy Days work together, sharing ideas to enrich social well-being for their residents.
Kathryn Farmer, CEO of Borough Care Ltd “Borough Care recently appointed ‘Activity Lifestyle Facilitators’, or as they are lovingly known, ‘ALFs’, in each of their 11 care homes. Their role is to help enrich the social lives of residents; boosting their well-being by getting to know the person their loved ones know…qualities, interests, achievements, likes, dislikes, and positive long-term memories; ultimately what makes the person feel at home and happy.
“Making the move from a task-focused ethos to one that is truly person-centred and values taking time to deliver support the way residents want it, isn’t an easy shift, but the outcomes are already proving positive.
“Training and partnership working is a huge part of making the ALFs a success and I am delighted that Gillian Hesketh MA, from Happy Days Dementia Workshop and Nostalgic Design has shared her experience working with Borough Care’s ALFs.”