Habiba was shocked by the lack of activities for residents on her residential home placement, so she did something about it
I had been told by my university that my first placement in a residential home was to learn about communicating with residents. So I was surprised when on my first day the manager was unhappy when she found me sat chatting to a resident. She said I should go and help the staff in the kitchen doing the washing up.
During my first few days I spoke to residents about how they spent their time and what kind of activities they did. I was shocked to hear that most of the time they sat watching television, which usually they didn’t enjoy.
When I heard how they felt I said to myself “Why not propose something that everybody can do and enjoy doing?”
I was so angry when the manager asked me to wash up as I didn’t think that was the reason I was there. I also felt disappointed to see residents sitting all day waiting for meal times and had a strong feeling to do something to help the residents to enjoy themselves.
I decided to do some gardening with them and asked what they thought about the idea. Some of them were very excited about it and some of them weren’t sure about going out in the cold, others said they weren’t allowed to go out. In the end, only two residents were sure they were going to join in.
I was pleased to hear the ones who were interested talking about what kind of bulbs they wanted me to bring to grow, and when they wanted to do it. But I could not promise anything before I spoke to the manager.
I was worried about the reaction of the managers because everything developed so quickly and I had only one more day before the end of my placement. However the manager welcomed the idea and asked me to go ahead with it.
That evening I prepared everything I needed. I took compost, different kind of bulbs to plant, pots to plant them in, and brought extra just in case any other residents changed their minds.
The next day I laid everything we needed on the table in the lounge; I was surprised that nearly all the others who weren’t interested the first time changed their minds and asked me if they could join in.
It was very interesting and a pleasure to see the residents rolling up their sleeves to get busy: it was the first time I had seen them active. They were telling their stories; there was lot of talking and no arguments at all. This was quite unusual in my experience, as when the television was on there had not been much conversation among the residents. I saw great enjoyment in their faces when they were planting. Residents were asking if I had some more bulbs, and it seemed that they would have carried on all day.
The residents took their planted bulbs to their rooms. They carefully chose where to put them, and talked more about how the flowers would look. They were looking ahead to them blooming. One resident knew a lot about flowers from her mother who had been a florist, and she was pleased to have something growing to look after.
The manager took photos of the residents while they were busy, and this seemed to show that she also thought it was a special event or interesting in some way.
The next day was my last in the residential home, so I couldn’t see what happened next with the residents or with their bulbs.
All the residents said “Thank you” at some point. I was so glad I did it.
In my next placement in a similar setting I will make sure to have the same attitudes towards residents. I will always make sure to make time to do something different with them and find out who is responsible for such activities.
Habiba Afarssad Wharton is a first-year student nurse studying adult nursing at Greenwich University