Many people think of a nursing home as a nasty, soulless place where residents lie in bed or sit endlessly in a rocking chair, waiting for their days to pass 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 alive and look forward to years of fun and companionship, with daily activities to keep both their bodies and their brains active.
In fact, studies have shown that regular stimulating activities help half the decrease in depression among nursing home residents, preventing dementia and keeping their spirits and bodies alive. Activities are vital to maintaining the physical and mental well-being of residents, and even visiting staff and friends and family can willingly participate in the activities that a good nursing home offers.
If you are looking to find a nursing home for a loved one who is still capable of loving 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 accept Medicare or Medicaid patients must have a designated activities director to obtain adequate funding. But how well they do their job is something you will have to assess yourself …
“I think the residents I talk to who tell me they can’t do anything but sleep, eat and read the newspaper, are looking for a purpose to get up every morning,” writes Vicki30CNA on the website allnurses.com. “They don’t look forward to the next day as they all run together. And our residents who are not able to receive little or no stimulation other than going to the bathroom and showering. A few fold bibs every morning and see it as their ‘job’ But that job takes them half an hour. So what, they tell me. I hate seeing their last years, months, days so empty and without purpose. “
If you want to prevent this from happening to someone you love, read on. A wide variety of activities should be offered in each nursing home, 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 activities in place that stimulate their hearts and minds.
It might be a good idea to talk with the director of nursing home activities to see what is available. Here are just a handful of activities that a good nursing home should gladly provide …
Activities that start on their own
Great as they require little preparation and can be planned by the residents themselves. They include:
Gardening. Depending on the scope of mobility and the interest of the residents, gardening can be as rigorous or gentle as they wish. If there is a real garden that is fantastic, if not, hanging baskets, small herb pots, and collections of indoor cacti or orchids can keep it interesting.
Arts and crafts. Even older residents enjoy doing something, especially when they feel like it’s going to a good cause. Knitting blankets, making baby clothes, or participating in art or photography contests can keep people busy and help them make a contribution to society at the same time.
Games. You may think that bingo is the most popular nursing home game, and you are right. But there is more to competitive games than just bingo. How about bridge, mah-jong, canasta or chess? The sky is the limit. One-on-one 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 along; you may even have professional musicians among the residents or you may discover some hidden talents.
Nail care, Bible study, hairdressing 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 like a cliché, but young people have a lot to learn from older people. This can take the form of grandmother teaching little Albertine to knit, or visiting a school once a week and reading to the little ones. Many schools, in fact, encourage outsiders, assuming they have been controlled by the police, to help children who need a little more with individual 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. It could be giving residents massages or reflexology sessions, teaching them a special aspect of gardening, or giving a talk about growing orchids.
Scout groups. Scout troops often visit nursing homes and get together to do something fun, like bake chocolate chip 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 seniors, whether it’s preparing outings or having a pet therapy day when the local vet or animal shelter employees bring visiting animals.
Activities run by nursing homes
Themed events, such as birthdays or religious celebrations. Some creative residents meet with staff to plan events such as Hawaiian nights, Chinese New Year celebrations, or Halloween or Thanksgiving festivities. Friends and family may be invited to join, perhaps even residents of neighboring nursing homes.
Outdoor activities like barbecues, picnics, or a walk in a park or garden center. In some cases, volunteers can be called in to help residents with mobility problems.
A little culture. Going to the theater, opera, museum, or cinema may take some planning, but it’s worth it. Again, volunteer drivers and helpers may be required.
Alternative therapies. Everyone can benefit, as long as they are 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, it should be the goal of every nursing home. The activities should be varied and interesting, appropriate to the different abilities, needs and interests of the residents. They should not only be fun, but also valuable, and allow residents to form new relationships, develop new skills, and maintain their fitness levels.
“We have a ‘prom’ in May where single local Marines join our residents (wheelchairs and all) to dance and eat, writes CoachCathy on the site allnurses.com.” We have dresses and suits donated by local thrift stores. Local hairdressers come and do hair and nails. Everyone has fun.
“And we had a winter wonderland theme last December – we made snowmen out of diaper boxes painted white – and we had a snowman decorating contest. The residents had an indoor snowball fight. (with cotton balls) It was a lot of fun! “