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Participating in Meaningful Activity

For many older residents in care homes, a lack of activities to occupy their time is the main reason for their dissatisfaction with the care they receive.

A report from the Alzheimer's Society highlights that more than half of carers feel their relative does not have enough to do during the day. It also found that the typical person in a home spent as little two minutes interacting with staff over a six-hour period.

Increased activity and engagement can have a positive effect on quality of life and contribute to other important outcomes including mortality rates. Research also shows that inactivity and low levels of engagement lead to loss of physical function, social isolation, behavioural symptoms and poor quality of life.

Consequently, the first statement in NICE's quality standard calls for older people in care homes to be offered opportunities during their day to participate in meaningful activity that promotes their health and mental wellbeing.

NICE says that older people in care homes should be encouraged to take an active role in choosing and defining activities that are meaningful to them.

Whenever possible, and if the person wishes, family, friends and carers should be involved in these activities to ensure the activity is meaningful and that relationships are developed and maintained.

George McNamara, Head of Policy at the Alzheimer's Society, agrees that ensuring residents participate in meaningful activity is an important component of care.

"We know that for residents, quality of life can be improved when care homes are more engaged with their communities, as this allows residents to carry on enjoying the interests and hobbies when they enter the home," he says.

"Activities are not commonplace, and I think one of the first steps that staff in care homes can take towards ensuring meaningful activity is to build meaningful relationships with residents."

NICE defines meaningful as activity physical social and leisure activities that are tailored to a person's needs and preferences.

This can include daily activities such as dressing and eating, reading, gardening, and arts and crafts. They can be structured or spontaneous and may involve family, friends, carers and the wider community.

Mr McNamara continues: "Small measures can make a real difference when it comes to ensuring meaningful activity.

"We've seen some really good examples, such as where a number of residents in a care home had an interest in a local football team over number years. The simple act of helping them reminisce over their local club had a transforming effect on them, which was great to see."

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