A 31-year-old care worker whose dream of a career in the West End was ended by major brain surgery is in line for a major care award for the way he entertains residents of a Hafod care home with his singing.
Rob Thomas, of Sunnyside Road, Bridgend, had his musical theatre dream ended by major brain surgery at the age of 18 but he still goes out of his way to bring happiness to the residents of Picton Court, at Nottage, near Porthcawl,
His task as the activities organiser at the home, which provides residential, nursing and dementia care, is to brighten the lives of the 76 residents aged 60 to 103, by arranging activities and entertainment.
His tenor voice is in much demand, particularly for the old favourite songs and he also organises quizzes, takes them out to meals –25 of them were guests at a Rotary lunch recently – and arranges other activities.
He will often take a wheelchair-bound resident shopping or for a coffee and a chat and he hold raffles and other events to pay for some of the treats.
It’s earned him recognition at the Wales Care Awards, an annual event organised by Care Forum Wales at City Hall, Cardiff, on Friday, October 21, where he’s been shortlisted as a finalist in the Promoting Fulfilled Lives category, sponsored by Boots.
Rob says he loves his job and is a real “people person” having previously worked as a manager for McDonalds at Cardiff and managed pubs.
Music was his first love and he trained at Bridgend College with the West End and musical theatre in his sights but major brain surgery at the age of 18 curtailed his professional singing career.
He said: “Basically my brain was too big for my head and was causing major problems with my spinal column – I made a good recovery but performing professionally would have been impossible.”
He still worked in pubs and clubs and toured in cabaret shows and he still occasionally performs locally and he has recently joined Porthcawl Male Voice Choir.
He said: “I absolutely love the job and I’m very honoured to be short-listed for the awards even if I’m a little bit embarrassed, to be honest.
“My role is to make people happy, to show them that this is just a new chapter in their lives and to give a bit back to them.
“The best part is seeing the smiles on the residents’ faces when they’ve enjoyed something I do – that means the world to me.
“Care homes sometimes get a bad press and you don’t hear about the wonderful things they are achieving. What attracted me to this job was to be able to make a difference.
“I’ve been three years in the care sector and I enjoy what I am doing. I arrange everything from armchair aerobics to outdoor activities and to see people happy and enjoying their surroundings is reward enough.”
Kath Beakes, of the care staff at Picton Court, said Rob included staff as well as residents in his activities. “Nothing is too much trouble for him,” she said. “He is very dedicated and likes to brighten up the day whether by bursting into song or telling a joke.
“The most important thing when you work with the elderly is that you care, a very simple word with a big meaning, and I can say that Rob cares.
“He is a lovely, gentle and kind man who has made a difference to our residents’ lives since he has been at Picton Court. He brings a smile to everyone’s face.”
Volunteer Eileen Torkington also believes his dedication should be recognised. She said: “There is never a dull moment, he gives the residents something to look forward to every day. We are lucky to have such a caring person who does a tremendous job for the residents.
“Rob arranges all the activities – bingo, quizzes, keep-fit, singalongs, parties and church services.
“He also brings in outside entertainment such as choirs and musical groups, books meals out and arranges raffle parties so we can have spare cash for more activities. He works hard to ensure that the home is full of fun.”
Rob was nominated for the award by Hafod Care home manager Shajitha Augustine who said: “He provides a wide variety of activities from games and quizzes to old-style cinema afternoons and armchair aerobics. He also brings in regular singers and arranges art classes and music for health.”
Mario Kreft MBE, chairman of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.
He said: “The event is now firmly established as one of the highlights in the Welsh social care calendar.
“The aim is to recognise the unstinting and often remarkable dedication of our unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.
“The care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job it’s a vocation – these are the people who really do have the X Factor.
“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards that people need and never recognise the value of the people who need the care in society.
“We need to do all we can to raise the profile of the care sector workforce – they deserve to be lauded and applauded.”