October 16, 2017 by Kumba Dauda
Activities are an area which is
sadly seen to be less of a priority than it should be in care homes at
present. Often staff feel they “don’t have time” or “personal care” is
Now no one is saying that personal care
isn’t important, of course, this should be the skeleton of all care
institutions but residency in a care home should include so much more
than just the basic human needs of eating, sleeping and personal
hygiene. It should include other vital social/emotional needs such as
human touch and interaction. Love, friendship and social stimulation are
paramount to the mental health of residents as well as affecting
physical health, as those who are happy, content, feel safe, secure and
loved will deteriorate far slower, sleep and eat better and be far less
likely to suffer falls or hospital admissions.
Why care home activities are important
The dictionary definition of the word
“activities” includes synonyms – activeness, animation, life and
liveliness, entertainment, hobby, spirit, and vitality. These words all
describe things you would hope and pray for your loved one to have
despite moving into residential care and this is why activities are
paramount. There is a need for those in care to retain, regain and even
develop new skills (there is an entire unit in SVQ III Health and Social
Care dedicated to exactly this) in order to continue having a good
quality of life. The “quality” of care in a care home should be based on
how residents feel and the quality of their lives, not just the food
Often when we think of activities we
think of the “all singing, all dancing” approach but with residents who
live with dementia, activities can be far smaller, more person-centred
Activities can be anything which is
enriching, purposeful and beneficial to the resident. Activities are
different for everyone. We all have different hobbies, likes and
dislikes. Dementia doesn’t change this. It doesn’t “define” a person, it
just becomes part of them but if stimulated and nurtured people can
live full and enriched lives which include fun, laughter and purposeful
As a Dementia Care Worker, you should be
an active listener and an investigator of sorts, sifting through
information, watching for reactions, using trial and error with
activities until you source what makes your resident tick, what brings
smiles and laughter, and also what brings tears and frustration.
However, dementia is such a changeable condition. Remember to not dismiss ideas too quickly without
trying on different days, at different times or in different locations
as this can all make a huge difference to the receptiveness of the
resident. Most importantly, once you do your research, share your
findings with colleagues so that all staff involved with each resident
can adapt their care methods to best suit each resident.
With activities in mind, we must focus on
finding connections with residents, reigniting passions from the past,
offering new experiences and making sure that activities are purposeful.
Seeing residents sit around a table with bingo cards most of whom are
sleeping and cannot cope with such things any longer is crushing and
often the reason why people don’t see the importance in activities in
general. But seeing the smiles and laughter and realising how the whole
day can be affected by this is truly rewarding for staff, management,
relatives and the residents themselves.
What kind of activities work best?
That very much depends on the resident
group, their level of dementia and their previous involvement with
activities. I have found in my experience that activities where even in a
group situation you can focus on one or two residents at a time work
far better. This is for a variety of reasons. First of all, with old age
and dementia, many people suffer deterioration of sight, cataracts,
glaucoma and other eye conditions meaning a group activity wouldn’t suit
as they simply couldn’t see what was going on. Another reason can be
attentiveness. Attention span and concentration will decrease as part of
dementia and its effects on the brain however if engaged properly
residents can retain their ability to concentrate and engage in
activities far better. One to one or small group activities will give
you the ability to focus more on each resident helping them to focus on
what is going on.
Think of things which make you smile.
Music, beautiful photographs, outings, animals, children singing and
laughing, are all wonderful ways of enriching lives of those you care
for. But equally manicures, massage, yoga, light exercise and food
tasting can all be enjoyable.
Think outside the box. Life isn’t box shaped, it’s a kaleidoscope of shapes and colours.
Writer: Jenni – Activities Co-ordinator at a Care Facility in Renfrew