Watching someone’s health or memory start to decline, or witnessing a family member struggling with dementia can be troubling at best. Making the decision to find them a place to life that offers assistance can also be stressful – not only for the family but for their loved one as well.
Add to this that many providers still have much to learn about the care and engagement these people need. Even today, there are locked wards where someone’s cherished loved ones sit alone, lost in their thoughts all day. Even the name most communities usetoday – memory care – fits the newer, more compassionate reality for those in need of assistance.
But it isn’t just a vase of flowers or a fancy title that make facilities different; it’s what goes on every day. We call this life enrichment and its benefits are far-reaching, even beyond those suffering from dementia. It also provides significant value to residents who are depressed, disengaged or otherwise not socializing or participating in the community’s activities.
Activities and events in the community are often the only opportunities for residents to socialize, get out of their routine and access person-centered experiences. Their participation enhances their skills and talent, helps stay at the highest functional level while helping them better understand their abilities. We also know that it enriches their lives, allays their anxiety and emotional distress and that the encouragement and recognition received enhance their self-worth. For dementia residents, it has also been shown that higher level of activity reduces wandering.
Despite these positive aspects, activity participation remains a challenge for the programming team, as residents need constant reminding, support and encouragement to come and take part in the life of the community. This is where life enrichment solutions come in.
Communities that are successfully enhancing residents’ activity and life enrichment program often point to a simple strategy: ask them what they want to do. Today’s seniors and people retiring in the coming future seem to be more eager to participate in activity planning than residents in years past.
As communities move closer to a life-enriching attitude towards activities for their residents, including them in the programming process is a natural step as they are eager to voice their opinions. It provides staff with resources when budgets are tighter and helps marketing show prospective families how great – and different – their facility is.
But most importantly, it’s the best way to engage and empower residents; after all, it’s their home, it’s their community.