By S Matthews
Many people think a nursing home is a nasty, soul-less place where residents either lie in bed or sit endlessly in a rocking chair, waiting out their days until the inevitable happens. The reality – at least in a good nursing home – is far from that. Many people enter a nursing facility when they have lots of life in them yet, and look forward to years of fun and companionship, with daily activities to keep both their bodies and brains active.
In fact, studies have shown that regular stimulating activities help half a decline in depression among nursing home residents, staving off dementia and keeping their spirits as well as their bodies alive. Activities are vital to keeping up residents’ mental and physical well-being, and even staff and visiting family and friends can take part – willingly – in the activities a good nursing home provides.
If you are looking to find a nursing home for a loved one who’s still capable of loving life, it’s important that you discover what types of activities are on offer – and how often they are available. In fact, nursing homes that take Medicare or Medicaid patients have to have a designated activities director to get the proper funding. But how well they carry out their job is something you will have to assess yourself…
“I think the residents I talk to who tell me there is nothing for them to do but sleep, eat and read the paper are looking for purpose to get up every morning,” writes Vicki30CNA on the allnurses.com website. “They do not look forward to the next day as they all run together. And our residents that are not as able get little to no stimulation besides toileting and shower. A few fold bibs every AM and see it as their ‘job’, but that job takes them a half hour. Then what, they tell me. I hate to see their last years months days so empty and without purpose. “
If you want to avoid this from happening to someone you love, read on. A wide variety of activities should be on offer at every nursing home, so make sure this is the case when considering a nursing home. Some residents may enjoy going out for lunch several times a week, shopping or visiting the local art gallery or cinema. Others will prefer on-site activities that stimulate their hearts and minds.
It might be a good idea to have a chat with the nursing home activities director to see what’s available. Here is just a handful of activities that a good nursing home should willingly provide…
Great as they require little preparation and can be planned by the residents themselves. They include:
Gardening. Depending on residents’ scope of mobility and interest, gardening can be as rigorous or as gentle as they want it to be. If there is a real garden that’s fantastic, if not then hanging baskets, small pots of herbs and indoor cactus or orchid collections can still keep the interest going.
Arts and crafts. Even older residents enjoy making something – especially when they feel it’s going to a good cause. Knitting blankets, making baby clothes or entering art or photographic contests can keep people busy and help them make a contribution to society at the same time.
Games. You might think bingo is the most popular nursing home game – and you’re right. But there’s more to competitive games than just bingo. How about bridge, mah-jong, canasta or chess – the sky’s the limit. One-on-one games are great for encouraging closer relationships among residents, and group games are also good for fostering a sense of community.
Musical-based activities. Don’t limit the fun to sing-alongs – you may even have professional musicians among the residents, or you may discover some hidden talents.
Nail care, Bible study, hair salon day – all you need is a volunteer with a skill – and the time to make a difference in someone’s life.
School groups. It may sound cliched, but young people have a lot to learn from oldsters. This can take the form of Granny teaching little Albertine to knit, or visiting a school once a week and reading to the little ones. Many schools, in fact, encourage people from the outside – assuming they have been police-checked – to help kids who need a little bit extra with one-to-one reading or math exercises.
Local community groups. People who have a special talent often enjoy visiting nursing homes on a regular basis and sharing their skills. This can be giving residents massages or reflexology sessions, teaching them a special aspect about gardening, or giving a talk about growing orchids.
Scout groups. Often, scout troops visit nursing homes – gathering together to do something fun such as bake chocolate-chop cookies or build a birdhouse. The two groups can learn from each other and make use of each other’s skills and talents.
Local charities. People from charities often give their time to older people, whether that means preparing outings or having a Pet Therapy day when the local vet or employees from the animal shelter bring animals to visit.
Nursing Home-Led Activities
Themed events, such as birthdays or religious celebrations. Some creative residents get together with staff to plan events such as Hawaiian nights, Chinese New Year celebrations or Halloween or Thanksgiving festivities. Friends and family can be invited to join in – perhaps even residents of neighboring nursing homes as well.
Outdoor activities such as barbecues, picnics or a stroll through a park or garden center. In some cases volunteers may be called on to help residents with mobility issues.
A bit of culture. Going to the theatre, opera, museum or cinema can take some planning, but its worth it. Again, volunteer helpers and drivers may be necessary.
Alternative therapies. Everyone can benefit – as long as they’re not too invasive. Massage, yoga or Tai Chi can help residents have fun, get fit and relax.
Keeping people as happy and healthy as possible for as long as possible. both physically and mentally, should be the goal of every nursing home. Activities should be varied and interesting, suited to the different abilities, needs and interests of the residents. They should be not only fun but worthwhile, enabling residents to form new relationships, develop new skills, and keep up their fitness levels.
“We have a ‘senior prom’ in May, where the local single Marines escort our residents (wheelchairs and all) for dancing and food, writes CoachCathy on the allnurses.com site. “We have gowns and suits donated by the local thrift stores. Local hair parlors come and do the hair and nails. Everyone has a blast.
“And we had a Winter wonderland theme last December – we made snowmen with diaper boxes painted white – and had a snowman decorating contest. The residents had an indoor snowball fight (with cotton balls). It was so much fun!”