It has long been known that activity helps to sustain both physical and mental health, so it is important that older people living in care homes are able to maintain interests and have opportunities to develop new ones.
The challenges of providing good care for older people with complex needs in care home settings, as well as the culture of the care home, can result in staff prioritising practical tasks above supporting people to take part in meaningful activities. Risk management can also be an issue, with staff not feeling empowered to support people if there is an element of risk involved in activities.
Even when taking these important issues into consideration care homes can still greatly improve levels of activity for the people living there by ensuring that they have opportunities throughout the day to take part in the daily life of the home. To achieve this, staff need to know that engaging with people living in the home and encouraging activity is central to their caring role. SCIE’s film Excellence in residential settings – older people demonstrates the success of this approach in a care home. Meaningful activity can include routine personal care tasks, such as getting dressed and brushing teeth. If older people are encouraged to carry out these tasks for themselves, rather than have others do them on their behalf, it will contribute to their sense of wellbeing.
Pen pal scheme
A new initiative aiming to be the UK’s biggest pen pal scheme is to partner nursery and primary school children with care home service users of the same name.
The initiative, dubbed ‘Letters from a Namesake’, aims to bring together two different generations to share experiences and life stories.
Launched by the nations’ biggest supplier of name tags and labels for schools and care homes, My Nametags, the educational scheme aims to help develop children’s letter writing skills, while tackling loneliness among care home residents.
My Nametags are appealing for care homes in all parts of the UK to come forward and sign up if they are interested in taking part.
Lars B Andersen, Managing Director at My Nametags, said: “The way the scheme will work is we will match people and children with the same names.
“For example, a ‘Mary’ from a local nursery will be given the opportunity to write to ‘Mary’ in a residential care home and vice versa.
“No personal details will be shared as all the letters, pictures and drawings will be sent to us and passed on directly. We’re excited to be launching the scheme, and hope that it will help the local community enormously by bringing these two very different generations together.”
Care homes wishing to take part can register their interest by contacting Mynametags@energypr.co.uk or calling 01993 823 011.
Tailoring social activities to people’s choice and preferences
Organised activities contribute to the sense of community in a care home, but they aren’t for everyone. Some people prefer activities that they can pursue on their own, such as reading or listening to the radio. Other people prefer group activities, but a group activity that is enjoyable and meaningful to one person may be of no interest to another. People need a range of activities to choose from and support to maintain existing interests. The College of Occupational Therapy’s Living well through activity in care homes toolkit has plenty of ideas for building meaningful activity into the daily life of a care home and Staying involved and active from the Alzheimer’s Society provides tips on how to involve people with dementia in activities.
The importance of social activities to service users in care homes as a means of sustaining physical and mental health is well documented. Staff are always searching for new social activities. SCIE’s film Excellence in residential settings – older people, the My Nametags, educational pen pal scheme and The College of Occupational Therapy’s Living well through activity in care homes toolkit may well help to extend the range of social activities available in care homes. It must always be remembered that service user choice and preference are strong motivators towards engaging service users in social activities.
Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy