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Motivating Residents

motivationHow does motivation work?

Most of think that getting someone to do something is straightforward, offering either rewards or punishments. However, there is much more to it than that, and it's important to understand the difference to motivate effectively...

 

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As an old shopkeeper was putting his sandwich board outside on the pavement, a small bunch of teenagers walked past, and, noticing that he had a wooden leg, started shouting “Peg-Leg!” over and over again. That same day, on the way home, the same group of kids made a point of walking past his shop and taunting him again. Every day this happened, mornings and afternoons and the man found it quite distressing.

One day, he decided to take action and the next time the boys went by, he came out of his shop to speak to them. “Boys” he said “I hear that you are shouting “Peg-leg” to me every time you come past my shop”. “Yeah” said the tallest boy with obvious menace in his voice “What are you going to do about it?” I'm going to pay you each £1 for shouting “Peg-leg” every morning and every afternoon. But you must do it, or I won 't pay you”. He proceeded to take five £1 coins out of his pocket and offer them tot he boys. Thoroughly bemused, but not stupid enough to question this obviously mad man's reasoning, they agreed.

That afternoon, they walked by the shop and taunted the old man, who came out and paid them each £1.

The next morning, they walked past and taunted the old man, who duly came out of the shop. “I'm afraid I don't have enough change to give you today – will 80p do?”. A little disgruntled, the boys accepted and went on their way. The same happened again that afternoon.

On the following morning, the boys walked past and taunted the old man, who came out, as usual. “Sorry boys – I didn't sell very much yesterday – I can only give you 10p each from now on”

“We're not doing it for that! Do you think we're total mugs??!!” said the boys, who promptly walked off.

That afternoon, and from then on, not a sound came from the boys on the way past the old man's shop.

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There is no greater incentive than doing something because we want to. Intrinsic motivation, as it is known, is our most potent driver in good and bad things. We eat chocolate because we want to and it feels good to do things that we want to do. And as in this story, something which we do for pleasure can be turned to a chore just by adding a condition to it's attainment.

 

Someone who is fiercely independent will respond to cues which will enable them to preserve this quality, eg., “It's really important that you push yourself to walk again, or you'll need me for support all the time”

 

Why are we talking about this? In a care home, there are many situations which require a team member to 'motivate' a resident, either to eat, to walk after a period of illness, or make a journey outside. Traditionally, we try to motivate people by offering them a reward in return – “I'll make you a nice cup of tea when we get back” or “Your daughter will disappointed if you don't at least try to eat something”. This is not a long-term solution.

When we do something in return for something else, the drive is only as great as the need for that thing.

So how do I motivate someone effectively?


Everybody's different – what interests, passions do your residents have? What makes them tick? What values do they have and how could they affect the way they are motivated?


Someone who is fiercely independent will respond to cues which will enable them to preserve this quality, eg., “It's really important that you push yourself to walk again, or you'll need me for support all the time”


A resident who enjoys social support may be persuaded to go out for a coffee with “Jenny's hoping you can come along – she's hoping for a natter with you, find out how you're doing” rather than, perhaps “Please come with us – they do fantastic cream teas there”.

 

The Power of Broccoli...

One last little true story to demonstrate how the wrong type of motivation can work as a disincentive...

A class of children were asked who would like some ice cream as part of an experiment. All of the children's hand shot up in excitement (they were five years old). However, the condition was that they had to eat all of the ice-cream in order to get some broccoli. The children now ate the ice cream without relish, showing far more excitement about the broccoli – now a treat in the children's eyes, who felt that they had had to 'earn' it. The ice cream was little more than a means to an end.brocc

Think about it, next time you try to persuade a resident to do something for their own benefit. Ask yourself if the reasons you are giving reflect their personal values or interests - and check that you are not turning ice cream into broccoli...

. Posted in Care Staff Articles