There are many benefits to promoting physical activity at your care home, namely in the mental and physical wellbeing of your residents. This Wednesday 22nd September is National Fitness Day in the UK, so what better chance to discuss what you can do as a care home provider, to help empower your staff to encourage residents to take part in more activities.
Benefits of physical activity amongst the elderly
Physical activity doesn’t have to mean partaking in a Peloton class, Zumba workout or going on a 3-mile jog! For those living with physical or mental impairments – which can be commonplace for some residents in care homes – it can be as simple as making a cup of tea or tending to the garden. These sorts of activities can help your residents find purpose and help maintain their physical and mental abilities.
There is a wealth of research which demonstrates the positive impact that physical activity can have on the elderly, including keeping them healthy, enhancing their eating and drinking, and improving their social interactions.1 Plus, physical activity has been proven to be an effective way of managing the symptoms of those with dementia.
Effective activities to use within your care home
Promoting physical activity within your care home doesn’t need to mean that your residents need to overexert themselves. The types of activity that you can encourage can be simple, such as:
- Dancing: Music has been proven to be good for brain function and can be especially effective for helping to bring back memories in those living with dementia2
- Chair exercises: Chair exercises are good for strengthening muscles, as well as brain function.
- Dexterity: Simple activities such as wiggling fingers can help your residents maintain their dexterity.
- Walking: This is an easy way to encourage residents to head outside and use their muscles. Being outdoors even when it’s raining – provided they’ve got appropriate clothing – may help rekindle childhood memories and a sense of discovery.
What infrastructure do you need to promote physical activity amongst residents?
The best thing about using physical activity to improve your residents’ quality of life, is that it does not need extra investment and resources from the care home provider to see an instant difference. Meaningful activity for someone with dementia can be from something as simple as being able to make a cup of tea, so the key is knowing the needs of your residents and adapting the activity to suit their needs and personality. Consider factors such as which member of staff will enable the resident to get the most from the activity.
It’s also a good idea to look at your staff’s skills. For example, is there a carer who is also a budding gardener? If so, they may be an ideal pick to help your residents plant some herbs in a communal garden! Finding the right balance and mix of skills is important. In fact, one of the questions the CQC will ask you is whether your service has a mixed skill of staff and whether they’re competent and distilled within this service.
By encouraging a higher focus on regular activity with your residents that has less of a task-based structure, care home workers have the chance to be more creative and positive through the care they deliver.
Using physical activity to improve your care home
At Fulcrum, we’ve worked with countless care homes throughout England to help them improve the quality of service they’re able to provide – and in some cases, this has been through promoting physical activity. For example, we found that one of our care home clients had beautiful grounds that weren’t being fully utilised. We encouraged the staff to get their residents to have breakfast outside and to walk on the greens, as well as performing chair and ball activities across the day. We also opened up a kitchenette, so that residents could make their own cup of tea and toast, fully supervised by staff.
The result? Residents started to experience better sleeping patterns and needed to be prescribed fewer anti-psychotics. The home also saw an improvement in its staff retention, as staff were happier and felt empowered to be creative, with more confidence that their thoughts would be heard by management.
Within a year, the home had risen from inadequate to a good rating, improving their commercials and confidence in the home.
- Barnes, 2007; Petersen et al, 2011
- Duffy and Wall, 2013