Entertaining Residents By: Jim Papa

November 15, 2013 by Aaron Burger

mb152_143Most nursing homes, which cater to senior citizens or people with severe disabilities, provide activities and entertainment for their residents. Dealing with people who have health issues can sometimes be tricky but entertaining them can also be very rewarding. Not everyone is capable of or will want to work these types of events. Along with talent, it takes patience and understanding to get the job done. Should you perform at a nursing home? Here are the good, the bad and the ugly elements of this entertainment niche, submitted for your consideration…

(For the purpose of this article the term “nursing home” also includes most assisted living, dementia/Alzheimer care, healthcare, hospital and adult day care facilities.)

THE GOOD

Many people who are confined to nursing homes look forward to seeing entertainers almost as much as they look forward to seeing their own friends and family.

Nursing homes hire DJs and other entertainers for many types of events. Once you have established yourself with a facility, you may be able to book multiple shows in advance.

Most nursing homes schedule performers during the day or early in the evening. This makes it a good way to expand your income, as you may be able to perform at a nursing home, then earn more money by performing at another higher-paying event at night.

Another positive of this type of gig is that most nursing homes are flexible with a performer’s schedule.

Many nursing homes who book you on a regular basis will work with you to reschedule an event if you are offered another gig on the same day.

Nursing homes can also be great places to get referrals.

You hear about athletes and performers who “give back.” Here’s a way to do your part and give back while earning money at the same time.

THE BAD

Every location has an activities area designated for performers to set up and do their shows. Not every location is always clean or has a lot of room.

You must be extra careful when you run wires.

Most seniors in nursing homes use walkers or wheelchairs. This can get in your way and whittle away your space further.

It is not uncommon for a senior to come up to and talk you while you’re setting up or even while you are in the middle of your show.

Many nursing homes schedule their entertainment in conjunction with other activities for the day. This means that the room may have to be rearranged before you can set up.

Some residents may need assistance from the staff, so there may be interruptions during your show.

Seniors can be extra-sensitive to the volume of the music and high pitches, and they will complain.

Although some organizations will pay you by check the day of your performance, most will mail you a check after your event. Some places pay you within a couple weeks but others can take much longer.

Nursing home budgets can get cut with no notice. Entertainment is not considered to be a top priority and scheduled events can be cancelled.

There are numerous staff changes. Even if you may have a great rapport with your contact, they may leave without telling you. Having to rebuild relationships is a common problem.

Depending on what is going on at the facility, there may be just a handful of people at any given performance.

THE UGLY

Many locations schedule entertainers to perform during or just before a shift change. The shift that is getting ready to leave is happy to see you because once they bring the residents to you they can get ready to go home. The shift that is reporting to work sees that the residents are already occupied and may take their time getting involved.

You are not expected to help, nor are you likely qualified, but it is not easy when you see a person in distress. If a resident needs assistance, is creating a disturbance, or wants to leave, it can be difficult to stand by and watch until help arrives.

Many people who suffer from Alzheimer’s/dementia find it very hard to sit still. If they are physically able, they also like to roam around. Many are just confused and may be looking to find their way home. Some will walk right up to you and try to talk to you or even try to touch your equipment during your performance.

Many places use a common room for dining and entertainment. Although the staff usually tries their best, cleanup can be slow and is often incomplete. Debris and food odors can linger, and occasionally be a major distraction.

Because several people may handle your invoice, it is not uncommon for an organization to lose it, forget about it or push it aside. So, you must stay on top of your invoices because your payment is rarely a top priority. Most places will pay you on time, but some send out payments at their discretion. The best way to handle this is to find out in advance what an organization’s billing and payment cycle is, then, without complaining, simply remind them when they are late.

Every entertainer must enter these facilities with compassion and understanding. Remember these are human beings who have led full lives who now need help with the most basic human needs. Many of the residents have issues with hygiene and are no longer aware of it. Regardless, they will want to get very close to you. At times it can be overwhelming but as a professional you need to understand, get over it and go on.

As you can see, there are many things to consider when you are looking into entertaining at a nursing home. Some people can handle these events with no problem while others are turned off by the conditions that they have to deal with. If this is you do yourself a favor and look for work elsewhere. Should you perform at a nursing home? You’ve read the good, the bad and the ugly.

Now it’s up to you to decide. Good luck!

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Aaron Burger (38 Posts)


Filed Under: Business, Everything Else, Issue #152, Performing