With the holiday season upon us, we hope that many family and friends will be visiting their loved ones at your nursing homes. You and your staff may already be planning special holiday events for visitors to attend with the residents.
But when there isn’t a specific event planned, visitors can sometimes feel unsure of what to do with their friend or family member, especially if their loved one has challenges with communication or mobility.
A nursing home in Pennsylvania has a great solution for this! The Meadows developed a travel activity box, an open suitcase that sits in the foyer and is filled with activities for residents to do with friends and family. The box contains magazines, adult coloring pages with colored pencils and crayons, checkers, crossword puzzles, puzzles and decks of cards. Guests are encouraged to pick some activities, and then return the games and supplies to the box when they leave.
Why not make one of these boxes for your facility in time for the holidays? Be creative with what you include in it! To encourage visitors to engage in more physical activity with residents, you might include resistance bands for exercise or balloons to blow up and toss back and forth. The grandkids will love it!
We’ve talked about how encouraging residents to participate as much as possible in their own care can help maintain or even increase function and decrease negative behaviors. Let’s remember that residents with moderate to severe dementia can have fun too!
How often do we see a group of residents participating in a recreational activity, but notice that at least a few of them are left out? Sitting in the corner looking on? Often, these more “challenging” residents are the people who most need to be active and engaged in activity so they avoid feelings of frustration, agitation, and boredom.
To help with this, here are some activity ideas that your nurses, nursing assistants and recreation staff can use to get residents with cognitive decline in on the fun:
Flyswatter volleyball: Give residents plastic flyswatters have them hit a balloon back and forth to each other
Dance, dance, dance! Turn off those televisions and turn on some music and dance. Have staff members take turns playing music from their iPods through a speaker. Fast or slow, old or new, music has the power to move everyone.
Horseshoes: Now that summer is here, horseshoe games are everywhere. Look for the foam kind and play inside or outside on a patio. Residents can play while standing or sitting.
Foam swim noodles: Get a bunch of these, cut them in half, and start bending. These make for great resistance exercises! Leave them out in common areas for a safe, easy way to start spontaneous exercise.
Movement scarves: These can be found on enasco.com, or you can make your own with a lightweight material. Toss these colorful scarves in the air and have residents try to catch them. These scarves can be better than throwing a ball back and forth since people with slower reflexes and limited hand flexibility can catch them more easily.
Chores! Yes, chores. Your kids might not agree, but for older adults with dementia, doing familiar household chores can be calming and comforting. Grab a basket of cloth napkins and ask them to help you by folding them. Give them a broom and ask them to help you sweep the floor since company will be coming. Get some pillowcases or old clothes, hang a clothesline between a few walls, and give them some clothespins. They can hang the laundry.
Don’t forget to go outside! Warmer days are here now, so in the morning or early evenings when it’s a bit cooler, go outside. The sunshine, change of scenery and fresh air is something we all need. Look at the flowers, look for birds, and have some lemonade.