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The Importance of Nursing Home Activities
Many people think of a nursing home as an unpleasant, soulless place where residents lie in bed or sit endlessly in a rocking chair, biding 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 are still very much alive 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 cut depression in half among nursing home residents, staving off dementia and keeping their spirits and bodies alive. Activities are vital to maintaining the mental and physical well-being of residents, and even staff and visiting family and friends can – willingly – take part in the activities offered by a good nursing home.
If you are looking for a nursing home for a loved one who is still able to love life, it is important that you find out what types of activities are offered and how often they are available. In fact, nursing homes that take in patients with Medicare or Medicaid are required to have a designated activities director in order to obtain adequate funding. But how well they do their job is something you’ll have to judge for yourself…
“I think the residents I talk to who tell me they have nothing to do but sleep, eat and read the paper are looking for a purpose in getting up each morning,” writes Vicki30CNA on the website allnurses.com. “They don’t wait for the next day as they all run together. And our less able residents get little or no stimulation other than bathing and showering. A few bibs every morning and they see it as the their ‘job’, but that job takes them half an hour. So what, they tell me. I hate to see their last years months days so empty and without purpose.”
If you want to prevent this from happening to someone you love, read on. Every nursing home should offer a wide variety of activities, so make sure this is the case when considering a nursing home. Some residents may enjoy going out to lunch several times a week, shopping, or visiting the local art gallery or movie theater. Others will prefer on-site activities that stimulate their hearts and minds.
It might be a good idea to talk to the residence hall activities director to see what is available. Here are just a handful of activities that a good nursing home should gladly provide…
Great as they require little preparation and can be planned by the residents themselves. They include:
Gardening Depending on the range of mobility and interest of the residents, the gardening can be as rigorous or as gentle as they want. If there is a real fantastic garden, if not, hanging baskets, small pots of herbs and collections of indoor cacti or orchids can still maintain interest.
Arts and Crafts. Even older residents enjoy doing something, especially when they think it’s going to a good cause. Knitting blankets, making baby clothes, or entering art or photo contests can keep people busy and help them make a contribution to society at the same time.
games You might think that bingo is the most popular nursing home game, and you’d be right. But competitive gaming is more than just bingo. How about bridge, mah-jong, basket or chess – the sky’s the limit? Individual games are great for fostering closer relationships between residents, and group games are also good for fostering a sense of community.
Music-based activities. Don’t limit the fun to singing – you can even have professional musicians among the residents or discover some hidden talents.
Activities led by volunteers
Nail care, Bible study, hair day, all you need is a skilled volunteer, and time to make a difference in someone’s life.
School groups. It may sound like a cliché, but young people have a lot to learn from their elders. This can take the form of grandma teaching little Albertine to knit, or visiting a school once a week and reading to the little ones. Many schools actually encourage outsiders, assuming they’ve been policed, to help kids who need a little extra with one-on-one reading or maths exercises.
Local community groups. People who have special talents often enjoy visiting nursing homes on a regular basis and sharing their skills. This could be giving residents massages or reflexology sessions, teaching them a special aspect of gardening or giving a talk on growing orchids.
scouting groups Scout troops often visit nursing homes, getting together to do something fun, like bake chocolate chip cookies or build a birdhouse. Both groups can learn from each other and make use of each other’s skills and talents.
Local charities. People at charities often give their time to seniors, whether it’s arranging outings or having a pet therapy day when the local vet or animal shelter employees bring animals to visit them.
Activities directed by the nursing home
Themed events, such as birthdays or religious celebrations. Some creative residents meet with staff to plan events such as Hawaiian nights, Chinese New Year or Halloween or Thanksgiving celebrations. Friends and family can be invited to participate, perhaps even residents of neighboring nursing homes.
Outdoor activities such as barbecues, picnics or a walk through a park or garden centre. In some cases, volunteers may be requested to assist residents with mobility issues.
A bit of culture. Going to the theatre, opera, museum or cinema can take a bit of planning, but it’s worth it. Again, volunteer helpers and drivers may be needed.
Alternative therapies. Everyone can benefit, as long as it’s 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. The activities must be varied and interesting, adapted to the different capacities, needs and interests of the residents. They should not only be fun, but worthwhile, so residents can form new relationships, develop new skills and maintain their fitness levels.
“We have a ‘prom’ in May where local single Marines accompany our residents (wheelchairs and all) to dance and eat,” writes CoachCathy on allnurses.com. “We have gowns and dresses donated by second hand premises. . Local hairdressers come to do hair and nails. Everyone is having a great time.
“And last December we had a winter wonderland theme—we made snowmen out of diaper boxes painted white—and we had a snowman decorating contest. The residents had a snowballs inside (with cotton). It was so much fun!”
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