When it comes to choosing a care home for a loved one, families often enquire about activities and engagement in the home. Many envision care homes as places where residents are gathered for group activities like bingo or sing-alongs often believing that as long as these activities are provided, their loved ones will be content and happy.
Activities in a Care Home
Activities in care homes do play a crucial role in providing entertainment and promoting social interaction. There is value in bringing joy and creating a sense of community within the care home environment, especially for individuals who used to venture out into the community but are now unable to do so, these activities take on an even more significant role. They serve as a means of bringing the experiences and connections they once had in the community into their new home, ensuring that they continue to feel engaged and connected.
Occupation in a Care Home
Imagine, in the comfort of your own home, where you have a choice on deciding how you spend your time, without external pressures or expectations, when a person comes in whom you are not familiar with to entertain you when you are not feeling sociable. What if you weren’t in the mood for being entertained and simply wanted to get on with normal life – engaging in housework, gardening, painting, or cooking, for example. We’ve all experienced those moments—a cold Sunday afternoon when all we yearn for is the warmth of the kitchen and filling the air with the aroma of a freshly baked sponge cake, or there are those sunny afternoons, when the garden beckons for the need for our care and attention. These moments are more than just activities; they’re a symphony of emotions, a connection to the simple joys of life, and a reminder of the profound satisfaction that can be found in the everyday.
“Occupation” means a person’s regular work, profession, job or principal activity, “occupation” constitutes normal life for many people, and this is where the distinction between activities and occupation becomes clear. Both are important, but to create a sense of continuation of life when living in a care home, there has to be a sense of normalcy and continuity in daily routines and tasks.
Sense of Purpose
“Sense of purpose” refers to the feeling of having a meaningful reason or goal in one’s daily life. When residents in a care home are engaged in occupation that hold personal significance to them, such as cooking, gardening, or other routine tasks they may have enjoyed throughout their lives, it provides a sense of direction and meaning to their daily existence.
This feeling of purpose goes beyond merely passing the time or being entertained; it involves residents feeling that they have something valuable to contribute to their own lives and potentially to the community around them. It can be as simple as knowing that the garden they tend will bloom or that the meal they help prepare will be enjoyed by others.
This sense of purpose, intricately linked with meaningful occupation, is a powerful motivator that can significantly enhance residents’ overall well-being and happiness. It gives a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling that their lives continue to have meaning and significance even in a care home setting.
Dementia and Occupation
For individuals living with a Dementia, the act of engaging in familiar occupations like baking a cake holds a unique significance. While the individual may not fully understand or remember the details of what they’re doing, the sensory experience itself can be deeply comforting and evocative. The smell of the ingredients, the tactile sensations of mixing and kneading, and the process of creating something tangible can trigger a sense of familiarity and connection to their past. Even though they may not remember baking a cake, these sensory experiences can bring a sense of comfort and reassurance, creating a bridge to a world they may have difficulty recalling in words.
Benefits of Occupation in Care Homes
1. Maintaining a Sense of Normalcy
Frome Nursing Home’s household model of care aims to create an environment that closely mirrors the comforts and routines of living in one’s own home. Engaging in daily occupations helps residents, who are fondly referred to as family members, maintain a sense of normalcy and familiarity.
2. Personalised Engagement
Occupation-based care recognises that every family member is unique with their own life histories, interests and preferences. Care plans are tailored to each individual, each life history, ensuring that they engage in meaningful occupation and activities that they genuinely enjoy.
3. Enhancing Self-Worth
Occupation-based care recognises the intrinsic value of each family member’s abilities and contributions. When individuals are encouraged to participate in occupational-tasks they enjoy or are capable of, it boosts their self-esteem and self-worth. They feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
4. Promoting Independence
Meaningful occupational such as cooking, cleaning, decorating, gardening allow family member’s to exercise their independence and autonomy. This not only fosters a sense of self-reliance but also preserves their functional abilities.
5. Building Social Connection
While occupation is often an individual pursuit, it can also be a communal experience. Family members can work together on occupational-tasks like preparing meals or decorating, fostering social interactions and a sense of camaraderie.
6. Physical and Mental Stimulation
Daily occupational-tasks often provide both physical and mental stimulation. For instance, gardening can improve motor skills and cognitive function, while cooking involves planning and problem-solving.
The distinction between activities and occupation in adult social care is pivotal in shaping the quality of life for family members, as part of Frome Nursing Home’s “household” mode of care. While activities certainly have their place in providing entertainment and social interaction, meaningful occupation holds the key to creating an environment that truly mirrors the comforts and routines of living in one’s own home.
For those living with a Dementia, engaging in familiar occupations can be a powerful source of comfort and connection to their past, even when memories may falter. It serves as a bridge to a world they may struggle to recall in words but can experience through sensory engagement.
In essence, the integration of occupation into the care home environment provides family members with a profound sense of purpose and fulfilment. It reaffirms that life continues to hold meaning and significance, even in the context of a care home setting. Therefore, as we consider the well-being of our loved ones in care homes, we should recognise the importance of fostering meaningful occupation alongside traditional activities to ensure their lives are not only comfortable but also deeply fulfilling.