Last October, we organised a national survey on activities in nursing homes. The main goal was to have an overview of existing practises and share good practises with the communities.
We received more than 650 replies on our survey! We’d like to thank all the activities coordinator, psychologists and directors who took the time to answer the questions.
Life enrichment ideas: Activities in Nursing homes
What are your residents’ favourite activities?
In this survey, activities coordinators were given the choice to choose up to 3 activities:
The category ‘Others’ includes activities such as:
- Lottery, board games and card games (Triomonos Challenge, belote, Scrabble…):
- Outings and shows: cultural excursions, organised shows, outside walks, going to the cinema or to a restaurant:
- Intergenerational meetings:
- Reminiscence workshop to bring back old memories:
- Memory games and brainstorming games:
- IT workshops:
- Soft gymnastic classes: adapted physical activities, fall prevention workshops, playing Wii, Chinese gymnastic, body expression workshop, tai chi classes,
- Creative workshops: story reading, creative-knitting classes, creative writing classes, cooking classes:
- Gardening and flower workshop:
- Sensory workshops,
- Relaxation, modelling, and beauty care,
- Going to church,
- Conversation workshops which give a voice to the residents
- Laundry folding workshop.
What are the best activities you set in place?
Here is a sample of the best activities set in place in nursing homes, they complement the list mentioned above. Do not hesitate to contact us to get the full list.
Musical activities, memory quizzes and gardening are always a hit and are always listed in the best activities.
- Participating in a cross-institution Top Culture, a general knowledge quiz lasting for a week,
- Taking part in humanitarian activities (knitting for Nepal, creation of cuddly toys for foreign countries, teddy bear sewing workshops for neighbouring nurseries, etc),
- Organising themed dinners (Italian, Creole, raclette…) as well as organised tastings,
Going to a mushroom exhibition,
- Having a family dinner and a tea dance,
- Reconstructing miniature farm with farm animals (goats, bunnies, chickens…) or creation of a henhouse,
- Having museums come to the nursing home and setting up an exhibition within the home for video projection, conferences and meetings with the artists or museum’s speakers,
- Celebrating Neighbours’ Day,
- Walking rescue dogs from animal shelters,
- Doing mime activities,
- Going to the circus,
- Throwing monthly birthday party with an accordionist,
- Playing the ‘Guess who?’ where you give 3 hints to help the residents figure out who is coming to see them,
- Storytelling of memories from the Second World War between residents and school kids every week for a year,
- Organising fairs with activities from the good old days,
- Going to a vintage cars exhibition,
- Having a recreation of old professions,
- Going sled-dog riding,
- Reading tutoring for children in primary classes,
- Writing a book meant for children and reading sessions by the residents,
- Celebrating Mardi gras with the staff in costumes,
- Going trout fishing and tasting of the day’s catch,
- Playing the Longest World game,
- Having laughter yoga class,
- Organising a cross-institution festival like the Cannes Festival,
- Recreating a cooking contest,
- Having the residents give a cooking class for young disabled children,
- Participating in a wheelchair race to raise awareness for disabled people,
- Organising an international fashion show with family members,
- Organising a miss and mister election,
- Creating a Marilyn Monroe portrait from Nespresso coffee capsules,
- Organising a bachelor’s exam from scratch, with classes, revision, convocation and exam schedules,
- Organising weekly outings to the town market,
- Organising a cross-institution masked ball,
- Creating a nursing home newspaper written by volunteers, families, and staff members,
- Throwing a Christmas party.
Does the life enrichment team receive help from other health professionals?
Activities coordinators in nursing homes in numbers:
- 43% of our respondents have received help from volunteers
- 79% of them have received help from Caregivers
However, our respondents 41% of the time have never received help from psychologists, 93% from speech therapists, and 72% of them from occupational therapists.
Which is why we can conclude that most of the time activities coordinators create their own activities in nursing homes, with the help of volunteers, care helpers, and other health professionals.
But, volunteers and caregivers are always here to help!
Indeed, caregivers and families can help and are really happy to participate when they’re here!
It’s not easy for them to see their parent in a nursing home, especially in a dementia care unit. Creating activities for senior residents adapted to people suffering from dementia will also attract families to come and participate!
For example, with the Scarlett program, which is adapted for people suffering from Alzheimer’s, the family can play with their relatives. They share an activity: the tablet is used as a mediation. Therefore they spend a very good time without stress! A huge success!
Do families participate in the activities?
About 69% of the families participate in the nursing home activities.
If not, why aren’t they participating?
How do you rate a good activity?
Several other criteria make it possible to evaluate a good activity in a nursing home, both in the achievement of the set objectives, but also in the feedback from the residents and the families.
Here are a few clues to know if they like it or not:
Before the activity
- The seniors’ excitement before the activity
- The fact that seniors came by themselves or asked a caregiver to bring them to the activity room,
- The fact that seniors came of their own free will
During the activity in the nursing homes
- Residents are smiling and dynamic,
- Families and residents do not hesitate to participate in the activities and to thank the facilitators.
- Complicity between residents
After the activity in the nursing home
- “Is it already the over?”
- Residents cannot wait and are excited to know when the next activity will take place
- Residents’ loyalty in the activities
- When those activities in nursing homes increase the residents’ wellness: Less stress, less loneliness, etc.
What is the average between coolective activities and individual activities?
Life enrichment coordinators mostly organise senior citizen activities in groups rather than individual activities. The average ratio is ‘90% collective/10% individual’/
Do you provide individualised monitoring of your activities?
In 69% of nursing homes, activities are followed by a personal monitoring.
What advice would you give to a new facilitator?
Here is a list of tips that activities coordinators gave us. This list is non-exhaustive, given the wealth of information collected, do not hesitate to ask us for more details!
Preparing for the activity
- Try meeting each resident individually, to get to know them better to anticipate their anxieties and help them find their marks.
- Try to know the different residents’ pathologies to guide them through the activities without putting them in failure, and to train them in gerontology.
- Never assume their incapacity because they often prove us wrong.
- Try to make simple workshops, taking into account the location (in the town or countryside) and to propose workshops that are supposed to interest them (in connection with their past).
- Always plan the activities, in order to give the residents reference points in time and to build their loyalty.
- Alternate collective and individual activities, without forgetting anyone.
- Be ambitious and don’t be afraid to make big plans.
During the activity
- Do not be so set on how the activity is supposed to unfold, go with the residents’ needs: listen to them, by bringing them a bit of craziness.
- Allow yourself to take groups of 3 to 4 people.
- Know your skills and your own limits, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from other caregivers.
- Don’t be afraid of being ridiculous.
- Do not get your hopes up and expect results, as in a DIY workshops, also work with the residents, not for them.
- Know how to improvise and have great flexibility.
- Do not hesitate to stimulate the residents, because they are often more spectators than actors. Know how to encourage them, solicit them wirthout ever forcing them!
- And finally … Do what feels right for you.
After the activity
- Bounce on all the information that can create new activities.
- Constantly question yourself.
- Don’t expect too much gratitude.
- Do not get discouraged after a failure, it is always constructive
- Be available for everyone (don’t forget anyone) and at all times (end of life).
- Always bring up the residents, do not put them in failure.
- Always stay motivated, creative and happy, and never give up.
- Work hand-in-hand with the care team.
- Create a bond with the families.
- Never infantilise them.
- Prioritise quality over quantity.
- Contact the town to find out what partnerships can be set in place (schools, organisations, etc…).
As for the organisation
- Plan and budget activities for the year.
- Create a central theme for the year.
- Coordinate a unifying weekly activity.
- Create technical sheets for each workshop.
- Individualize the residents’ expectations
- Participate in the development of each resident’s care plan.
- Evaluate each workshop daily
- Always ask yourself the right questions: 1) observation 2) choice of the activity 3) feasibility 4) finality and objectives 5) activity’s process.
- Arm yourself with good working tools (list of residents, residents’ monitoring documents, activity sheets most often done yourself because they do not exist in the facilities).
However, activity coordinating is not just about the activity itself, because entertaining means giving a bit of yourself. As such, you also have to take the time to speak, grab a coffee with the residents. Sharing a smile or a laugh makes for the best activity you can offer an isolated person.
We will end with this last piece of advice given several times: SMILE!
The nursing home and new technologies
Did you try to implement new technologies?
50% of the nursing homes have tried implementing new technologies.
Which new technologies have been tested?
Most of the time, the new technologies that are tested in nursing homes are touchpads, internet, projectors, and karaoke, Snoezelen workshops as well as playing the Wii.
Some of Internet’s features have been developed specifically for the residents: sending emails to family members and skype calls, taking digital photos, street viewing the residents’ home on Google Earth, tracking photographer’s travel blogs, using software to visit online museums such as the British Museum in London …
Some interesting ideas to keep in mind: 3D printers, adapted vehicles, reading lights, musical kiosks, light therapy, the Montessori method, multi-sensory trolleys, mini-golf kart to be able to get around easily, a floating bed or a Physioparc.
Which activity worked the best?
Here are new technologies that worked and their specificities:
- Internet search: news, Wikipedia, google earth, complementary information…,
- Memory games and Q&A’s,
- Lottery, games, and karaoke projection on a big screen,
- Touchpads and how to use them,
- Skype and email exchanges with the grandchildren,
- Light therapy,
- Music therapy and anything related to music,
- Adapted game console,
- Intergenerational workshops on these new tools.
In terms of feeling as well, new technologies have brought new things to the residents, and the facilitators noted :
- The interactivity related to these technologies,
- The residents’ curiosity, attracted by the novelty, the competitive spirit and the atmosphere,
- The pleasure of being in a small group,
- Exchanges created between residents, and with caregivers,
- The valorization of the residents who come there, and the individual care that is allowed,
- Soothing after the activity leading to a better accpetance of care,
- The very positive feedback from the dementia residents who enjoy the activities.
Furthermore, the new technologies workshop often worked better when the facilitator no longer presented it as a computer workshop, but as an “introduction to new techniques” workshop.
What didn’t work so well?
The following are the negative aspects associated to the use of new technologies in nursing homes:
- Difficulty to use the mouse of the computers (comment that comes back very often)
- Difficulty in learning how to use the joystick on game consoles with several buttons, and understanding that the movement of the joystick acts on the television,
- Lack of spontaneous demand from residents,
- Solutions that are not easily accessible to people in wheelchairs,
- Generations unaccustomed to virtual relationships, and the difficult use of Skype,
- Problems with hearing or visual impairment,
- The lack of autonomy of the residents, they always need someone (caregiver or family): the cursor is hard to see, and the keys are too close together. There is more suitable equipment but it is still too expensive for the activity budget.
- The difficulty when using internet for individual research,
- Difficulty understanding the language associated with new technologies,
- Technical difficulties related to Internet networks,
- The games understanding and the length of the games.
What can be improved?
The following are areas for improvement with respect to the new technologies currently in use:
- A simpler operation, adapted for the public’s handicaps,
- A sleeker design (often too much information on the same page), a loud sound, a simplified keyboard, more visible keys, and readable fonts,
- More games adapted for the elderly: non-childish games, adapted, and easy to understand,
- More games not putting them in failure: often seniors get bored very quickly when they don’t succeed,
- Solutions that don’t always need wifi, in order to carry out individual workshops in the bedroom or in remote living spaces,
- A multiplayer mode,
- Design solutions as fun activities, so that residents think about having fun before they think about exercising,
- Simplification of presentation vocabulary,
- Affordable rates to allow institutions to equip themselves in greater numbers
- Partnerships to be set in place to initiate nursing home residents to new technologies.
Why haven’t you tried new technologies?
Other reasons why new technologies have not been used include the following:
- the lack of adaptation of solutions to the residents’ profile and to the real needs of the nursing homes,
- the solutions require a lot from the individual, and facilitators are not always trained in individual care,
- the motivation and lack of time of the facilitator,
- the budget or investment priorities,
- the rural environment.
In 76% of cases, the respondents to this survey were the facilitators in the institutions, but the survey was also often completed by the directors, nurses, special educators or art therapists.
How many beds/places does you structure have?
The majority of institutions have a capacity of 60 to 90 beds/seats.
Finally good luck to you, and do not forget that you have one of the most beautiful jobs in the world!
Do not hesitate to share with us your tips and ideas for cultural activities adapted for nursing homes.