Gone are the days when the highlight of the week was being able to sit at the watching window, catching a glimpse of the outside world that seemed so very far away. It was even said at one time that when you went to visit an elderly relative in a care home that you were never to mention the world outside, for fear that they would get upset. The only activities that were available for the elderly to get enthused about apart from meal times was the occasional game of bingo or the odd sing along. We all remember the images of care homes from the past when all the residents were positioned around the perimeter of the room, some awake, some asleep and some in a world of their own as a television played at deafness volume from a corner. Thankfully all of this is most definitely in the past.
Residential care homes are now required to provide a range of daily activities for their residents that are not only enjoyable, but also stimulating and geared at increasing levels of socialisation and wellbeing. These scheduled activities are about maintaining independence, keeping the mind alert and active and are a preventative measure against depression and memory loss associated with age. Without regular activity the muscles in the body start to waste and health rapidly deteriorates.
Person Oriented Care
When we consider patient oriented care we are looking at a tailored care package for the individual that not only takes into account their clinical and medical needs, but also their social and emotional needs. This type of care plan encourages the resident to make their own decisions about how they spend their time each day. Wherever possible care home staff will try and involve the family of the resident, as well as the resident themselves in the designing of their tailored care plan.
The involvement of close family is essential when a resident suffers from impaired memory function or other form of mental illness as they will often feel isolated and cut off from family and friends. Relatives can find it distressing when their relative starts to deteriorate and often feel guilty that they have had to resort to a care home for their loved one, but by working in partnership with the staff they can still very much be involved with the care of their relative and confident that when they leave after each visit their relative is getting the care and attention that they need.
These care plans should include a range of individual activities that the resident can get involved in, but should also include some communal and social activities too so that any sense of isolation or loneliness can be addresses. These communal activities should never be compulsory though as the resident should always feel free to say no to any activity that they do not wish to be a part of. We live in a multicultural society and this too should be reflected in the way that the care home arrange events and activities, and specific cultural or religious needs of the client should be taken into account, as should any language difficulties. There should be enough resources in place to enable inclusion for all.
Examples of Activities
A good weekly schedule of activities should include enough activities to include all of the residents. A care home with forty or less residents will need one scheduled activity each morning and one each afternoon, whereas a care home with a larger resident population will need to double the amount of activities on offer. The care home should have a member of staff that is employed to co-ordinate activities and make sure that things run as they should, they will need to be enthusiastic and have a good imagination. Any activity that seems unpopular should be addressed and either altered or changed to make it more appealing to residents. A monthly meeting between staff and residents would be a good way to gauge how the activities are working and a good arena for generating ideas for new activities.
- Monday: Crafting & Bingo
- Tuesday: Cooking or Baking / Reminiscence
- Wednesday: Gardening (Indoors or Outdoors ) / Musical Entertainment
- Thursday: Chair Aerobics / Aromatherapy
- Friday: Flower Arranging / Games or Wii
- Saturday: Hairdresser or Beautician / Musical Entertainment
- Sunday: Music for Health / Film Night
This is an activity that greatly benefits the residents that are suffering any form of dementia. This is a time when they can bring the past back to life, they can remember their childhoods, their working lives, events that changed their lives, just about anything in fact. Not only is this a fabulous activity for the residents it’s also good for the staff too, as they get to find out a lot more about the people who are in their care. A memory box is a great idea, it doesn’t have to be very large but it should be filled with things from the past that will spark memories, things like carbolic soap, ration books or anything that relates to the age of your residents.
This kind of activity should never be included in an activity plan unless the classes are taken by a qualified professional with an understanding of the health issues of the elderly. These exercises are designed to stop muscle wastage, raise the heart rate and improve mobility, they are also great for improving co-ordination and can be a lot of fun for all involved.
Normally associated with a much younger generation the Wii is actually a fun way of getting the elderly to increase their fitness levels. Not only will they be moving their bodies they will also be improving their hand/eye coordination, plus it is a great social activity which can often give rise to a little healthy competition. Make sure that you have a large enough screen for the games to be played on though.
Music for Health
Many care homes offer a similar kind of program and it involves music that residents can not only sing along to, they can also get involved with instruments such as tambourines that they can play along to the music with. The range of music can be adapted to take them back into the past and ignite some memories and get them socialising. This kind of activity is best performed in an area where there will be little chance of interruption as the activity leader needs to maintain his or her hold on the attention of the group.
You will not come across a care home that does not schedule some musical entertainment into their activities. This form of activity is so popular that there are a number of professional groups that make a living providing this kind of entertainment. It is a great social activity, it engages the residents and works well for memory too as they are having to remember the words to the songs.