With our ageing population in the media spotlight, it seems that each week heralds a new piece of research on how to stay healthier and happier for longer. Nowhere is this more important than in care homes, where individuals have complex physical care needs and where the unfamiliarity of the environment can breed social isolation and depression.
If reports are to be believed, devoting time, money and resources into an appropriate Activities programme is the silver bullet for residents’ well-being.
From increases in flexibility, appetite and hand-eye coordination, to a reduction in falls and measurable improvements in enduring conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, appropriate Activities do much more than pass the time.
The physical benefits of any exercise which requires movement may be obvious but small changes should not be underestimated. In the context of a more vulnerable age group, a slight improvement in physical health can be life changing. Investing in Activities within a home has been linked to decreases in observed levels of depression, as residents enjoy meaningful engagement with their neighbours. Whilst having a defined time period to complete a task provides a sense of purpose and gives structure to otherwise potentially formless days.
The NICE Guidance ‘Dementia: support in health and social care’ emphasises that enabling people with dementia “to take part in leisure activities can help maintain and improve quality of life”, highlighting the importance of the chosen activities being “based on individual interest and choice”, and recommending that the quality of an activities programme is measured by “evidence of local arrangements to find out about the individual interests and preferences of people with dementia in order to ensure access to leisure activities of interest”.
The importance of the activities being “of interest” to residents is cited in numerous studies. A full time activities coordinator or a staff member with protected activities time signals a provider’s commitment to a daily programme of events; allowing the coordinator to get to know their audience and focus on those events, trips, and games which will elicit the most enthusiasm.
Asking residents for their contributions to the planning of an activities programme does more than add content. This is an opportunity to listen to residents and include them in the home’s decision making process. It may seem a small act, but the offer of autonomy has been shown to stimulate residents to be more focused on their surroundings and decrease the learned helplessness so often a product of institutionalisation.
Where a programme reflects the needs and wishes of the residents, the benefits are significant. And, as is almost always the case, what is beneficial for your residents pays dividends with CQC.
Inspection reports of homes rated Outstanding by CQC in 2016 all include consistent praise for providers’ investment in meaningful Activities programmes. This is unsurprising when one considers that the potential benefits of Activities span all 5 CQC questions of Safe, Effective, Caring, Responsive and Well-Led. An Activities programme will not of course win over the CQC in isolation but, with the wide-ranging benefits to residents and the scrutiny of their regulator, providers would be crazy not to give this area the resource and the commitment that it deserves, and will be rewarded accordingly.