Dave Valentine – Cook to Activities Coordinator
Each month we profile a care professional who has come into the sector after a career change and who demonstrates that it really is never too late to care! This month we meet Dave Valentine, from Making Space, who’s engaging approach with residents lead to a role as activities coordinator.
Dave Valentine started working at Merseyside residential home Palmyra in 2017 as a bank cook. But when his manager recognised how naturally he engaged with residents, including those who could be hard to reach, he was asked to consider heading up the activities team.
Dave became activities coordinator in April 2019 and has not looked back. According to residential manager Stephen Watson, the 34-year-old’s astonishing capacity to engage service users has led to them becoming more open and trusting of the whole Palmyra team.
For Dave, who also works as a catering technician in a college and a DJ, the move into a social care role was not something he had ever expected. “When I was asked to become activities coordinator, it was a massive step in my career as I had never done anything like this before. I’ve always worked in a kitchen.
“But having already built strong relationships with the residents, I felt I needed to test myself and give it a go.”
Dave’s ability to keep spirits high during lockdown proved once again to his manager that he was an excellent fit for the position. Residents at Palmyra, which is operated by adult health & social care charity Making Space, have said that they were kept entertained throughout and managed to stay in touch with loved ones using technology.
Dave’s stay at home activities have included smoothie making, virtual zoo visits all around the world, video games, DJ-ing and a staff versus residents pool tournament. As always, his activities programme was designed with individual needs and care plans in mind and planned via regular residents’ meetings. This means that all activities are suitable for residents’ sensory, cognitive and physical needs and abilities but also informed by previous careers, hobbies and preferences.
A project to redecorate the home’s activity room with a number of hand-painted murals saw one resident, who had never taken part in any organised activities, painting a tiger on the wall for three days straight. “He worked from early morning through to evening each day,” said Dave. “It looks amazing!”
As well as their mental health, Dave also considered residents’ physical wellbeing whilst they remained at home. All ability exercise classes proved popular with both residents and staff. For one resident, Danny, the lockdown restrictions proved extremely challenging, as he was used to being out and about for most of the day. Dave set up a Wii console with a number of games, which has proved to be an agreeable outlet for Danny’s energy.
A number of Palmyra residents have learned new skills this year, thanks to Dave ability to personalise his activities to individual abilities and interests. Eighty-two-year-old Barbara has been using a laptop for the first time and enjoying digital drawing and colouring, whilst 92-year-old Stan has learned to video-call his brother.
Dave has also helped out during the pandemic by taking on support worker shifts. This has ensured that there has been a continuity of care at Palmyra and that the home hasn’t needed to rely on agency staff. Going above and beyond in every way he could, at the height of lockdown, Dave offered lifts to staff who relied on public transport and went shopping for service users and staff who were shielding.
According to Stephen, Dave, never lets anything get to him and always has a positive attitude. When Dave’s wedding and honeymoon were cancelled due to lockdown, he instead spent the weekend supporting service users on their new garden project.
“I really enjoy spending time one-on-one with residents and finding out what they are interested in,” he said. “You can make a huge difference in someone’s quality of life once you work out what makes them tick. No two days are the same as an activities coordinator.
“When you arrive on shift and the residents are waiting for you with smiles on their faces, you know you’ve done your job”