6 Reasons Why Social Activities are Important for Care Home Residents
By Lihini Boteju
To support our physical and emotional health as we age, it is crucial to maintain an active and engaging lifestyle. While prioritising physical care and corporal health requirements of care patients is the general expectation, it is also equally important for care services to consider their social and mental wellbeing to provide a better quality of care. So what can care providers do to enrich the lives of residents in their care, to make life a little more interesting? The novelty of something new can make for a welcome change to the day-to-day routine of everyday life, so here are 5 suggestions for you to consider.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) explicates that residents of care facilities should be given the opportunity to engage in meaningful activities that advance their physical and mental welfare. NICE further maintains that care residents must be empowered to actively select and define activities that are meaningful for them, while caregivers, friends and family should participate whenever possible, offering support towards the facilitation of the goals of the activity while fostering relations that are important to the resident. Therefore, activities of a physical, social and leisurely nature that cater to the individual’s requirements and preferences, such as reading, gardening, cooking, arts and crafts, exercising, and singing as well as daily chores such as dressing, eating and washing should be encouraged as part of either a planned daily routine or an unplanned enjoyment, as a means to stimulate the interests, energies and emotional wellbeing of residents. Accordingly, here are 6 reasons why care homes should promote social activities to improve the wellbeing of their patients.
To overcome loneliness and a sense of isolation
Residents of care facilities, especially those who are separated from their family and friends, often experience loneliness and isolation. As most care residents spend long periods of time in isolated spaces, studies show that many experience prolonged states of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions resulting from a lack of familial relations and comforting surroundings. However, by introducing opportunities to participate in social activities such as group outings, conversation, and game nights, they are given opportunities to interact with others and build lasting relationships, potentially lessening their feelings of loneliness.
To improve physical health
Regular exercise and movement are significant contributors to improving the overall wellbeing of care residents. Social activities that require a more dynamic interaction with others offer most inactive and lethargic patients a boost to their energies, improving their mood and physical fitness. Activities such as regular exercise and dancing will help elderly patients retain mobility, reduce bodily aches and pains and lower their risk of falls and injuries while offering them a sense of satisfying independence in actively engaging in maintaining their health and wellbeing.
To stimulate creativity
Activities that encourage creative pursuits are strongly recommended for residents as a means to express themselves and engage their minds. Residents may find new hobbies and passions through these tasks, which can provide them with a sense of direction and fulfilment, often lacking during their later stages in life. Furthermore, mental stimulation could help combat the risks of mental health issues and memory loss, while helping residents to focus their thinking on the activities at hand. Writing activities, art workshops, cooking demonstrations, and music therapy sessions are a few examples of social activities that can foster creative pleasure in patients.
To develop social skills
Due to the sense of isolation that care patients often experience when residing in a care home, they tend to become antisocial, further causing risk to their emotional wellbeing. By engaging in social activities, residents can improve their social skills and interact with others who may go through similar conditions and experiences, alleviating their antisocial tendencies. This further develops their ability to communicate, empathise and resolve personal or social disputes, offering them a better standard of living free from anxiety and loneliness. Through activities such as community outreach initiatives, volunteer opportunities, and group conversations, these abilities can enhance patient connections within the care facility and beyond.
To improve mental stimulation
Elderly care patients who face a greater risk of memory loss and reduced mental capacities possess the potential to benefit greatly from social activities. Activities such as educational lectures, a film or literary discussion, memory games, book clubs, game nights and trivia nights that present intellectual challenges to patients, will help to improve their cognitive function, decision-making abilities, learning of new skills and improve memory functions that can help delay the onset of cognitive decline.
To reduce stress
While it is a leading cause of declining mental health, stress is a catalyst of a variety of other conditions amongst care patients. Stress can cause physical ailments such as headaches, muscle tension, and digestive issues while exacerbating chronic and prevailing illnesses. Long-term stress could further lead to depression and anxiety and thus have an overall impact on the quality of life of care patients. Social activities that promote relaxation and stress relief, such as meditation, breathing exercises, music therapy and even pet therapy can reduce the risk of developing stress-related health problems.
It is critical that care residents are provided with opportunities to pursue new interests while also preserving old ones. Social activities are a significant stepping-stone to improving the quality of care provided, going beyond the basic level of attention given. However, there are many difficulties in the execution of such activities due to care facilities having to accommodate patients with diverse and complex requirements, due to pre-existing cultures within the facility, the lack of time and training of employees, and limitations in resources that often cause facilities to prioritise routine work over offering any extra support to residents, to engage in fulfilling activities.
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