As a coordinator or manager of a service, you are often under pressure to ‘get the job done’ and I see many people becoming task focused to the exclusion of all else. I recognise that clients may need assistance to shower, have their clothes washed and meals cooked; but you need to remember that supporting a client is more than meeting their physical needs, you also need to recognise their social and emotional needs. It’s also good for the staff and coordinator to have a bit of fun in the workplace. Try to plan for enjoyable activities for yourself, staff and clients.

Clients generally enjoy the opportunity to get out and socialise. This is sometimes more important to them than having their house cleaned or receiving a shower.

As a coordinator myself, I would plan on one major activity a month. The ideas for the activities came from staff and clients. Sometimes this was an activity at the centre such as a Christmas lunch or painting day, but by far the most popular activity was a bush trip somewhere near the community. I’ve had people say that bush trips are something that should be done by the old person’s family. My experience however is that often many old people don’t get to go out with their families or they enjoy going out with their peers when they can talk about old times and tell stories.

I’ll admit, there is a lot of work to prepare for a day out or major activity especially when you are struggling with staffing levels and meeting client needs, however I do know of services who run bush trips on a weekly basis – it's a matter of prioritisation.

At one of the services where I worked, we would cook a meal the day before that could be delivered cold to clients not going on the outing. This would be delivered with breakfast and we would take a break from tasks such as laundry for the day. After the breakfast round, we would load up the vans with clients and carers and head out to the designated spot. The location would depend on the time of year and what bush tucker was available. Staff would build a fire and assist clients to prepare roo tails for cooking in the coals. My contribution was to cook the damper in my camp oven – I make a mean damper, if I do say so myself! Clients would either sit around chatting or wander off to dig for water holding frogs or honey ants, hunt goanna or look for yams, bush bananas or whatever bush food was in season.

Some coordinators would suggest that activities could be left to local staff to deliver and that this would free up the coordinator to do more administration work. I disagree with this – I needed to get out and enjoy a day out bush as much as the local care staff, but more importantly there was an openness to the discussions that arose during these days out. Stories would be told and information shared that could not be gained easily through other more formal meetings or at the aged care centre. Clients were more active and engaged, there was always lots of laughter and talking.

I remember inviting the dementia specialist along to one of these days and apart from enjoying the experience she was able to pick up more knowledge about individual clients through the casual sharing of information and stories than in a formal interview with the client and their carer.

With the move to CDC and promoting the idea of wellness and re-ablement, discussing what is important for clients and what they want to get from their aged care support, I am guessing that a lot of clients will be asking for more activities.

So how about your service? Have you thought about activities days? Brainstorm ideas with clients and staff and develop a calendar of activities that meet the needs of your clients.

Do you have any ideas or stories about the benefit of activities days for your clients and staff that you could share with others? We’d love to hear about them – feel free to share these in our comments section below!

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