From running a busy weekly programme of activities to pulling out all the stops to create special birthday treats for residents, Jane Mealing, Activities Coordinator at Avonbourne Care Centre, part of The Orders of St John Care Trust, is passionate about enriching the lives of her residents.
“I love creating those special moments where you can make someone’s day with something you’ve arranged,” says Jane. “I don’t think there’s any other job that gives this kind of satisfaction. I honestly get as much from our residents as I hope I give to them.”
Jane has worked at Avonbourne Care Centre, near Salisbury, since it opened almost four years ago.
After previously working in childcare, she initially applied for a job as a housekeeper before being asked at her interview if she would consider an activities role – and she’s not looked back since! She’s now part of a dedicated team that arranges a varied and inclusive programme of five activities daily for 60 residents across the centre’s two homes.
From tai chi to flower arranging, and music sessions to baking, gardening and craft clubs, plus weekly visits from entertainers, Jane strives to ensure there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
“I absolutely think this is key to what we do. For me the first step is getting to know the resident and building a relationship with them – it’s so important to do that so you know what works for them and what they want so you can cater for that.”
Enthusiastic and energetic, Jane is constantly thinking about new events and activities she can try.
She particularly loves coming up with special ways to help residents celebrate their birthdays.
One of her real successes was arranging for a new Massey Ferguson tractor to visit the home to help Edward, a resident who had grown up on a farm and loved talking about tractors, celebrate his 80th birthday. She also arranged for Cecil, who had served in World War Two, to attend a local armed forces open day where he was treated like royalty, took day centre client Jennis for a trip on the London Eye and arranged for Phyllis to receive a signed picture from Mary Berry plus more than 450 birthday cards on her 108th birthday last year.
Jane, who has also organised for the home to be visited by reindeer and penguins, surpassed herself in December with her Advent of Activities, organising 24 special festive events in 24 days.
Jane said her personal highlights were those special moments she’d shared with residents.
“Sometimes it’s just those little moments that stay with you, when someone you never thought would engage with something surprises you by joining in and loving it, like last week when a resident who is very shy took the microphone to start singing karaoke, or when a resident who has advanced dementia stroked my hair and told me I was lovely. That made my day, because that was such a connection, it was a real moment for him.”
Jane said she was “dumbfounded” but incredibly proud to be shortlisted for an award.
“At the end of the day I like making people happy. I’m a bit of a big kid at heart and if my job involves doing art and craft with someone in the morning followed by having a dance and a giggle in the afternoon then that’s a good day for me.”
Celia, who heads up the residents’ committee, said the home would not be the same without Jane, adding: “We are very lucky as everyone here works so hard for us, but Jane really has got something extra special. She is wonderful.”
Simon McLean, General Manager at Avonbourne, said Jane was “amazing and inspirational”.
He added: “Effortless and hardworking in equal measure, Jane makes the role of activities co-ordinator look incredibly easy! Interactions and engagement with the residents are second to none, with activities planners and outlooks being the benchmark of quality that are workable not only at Avonbourne, but across the region of Wiltshire.”