With my previous experience working in a nursing home, I was (and am) very aware that for most activities it’s not possible to make people cooperate. Knowing our elder, I was a bit dubious of her being willing to do so. I’m glad she is beginning to participate, but it has taken work, suggestions from the Activities Director and I’m pretty sure every caregiver in the unit.
You may wonder why this is important. Depression is a dangerous problem in the elderly and our elder is a likely candidate. She’s been moved from her home, she’s in a facility that has rules she doesn’t like and she doesn’t understand why she’s there. All she wants to do is stay in bed and watch television. For the sake of her health, we have to entice her out.
Know the Schedule: It’s not enough for the patient to know the schedule, especially in a memory care unit. The knowledge may be gone before it can be useful. We as family members need to know the schedule. Even knowing when it’s time for lunch can be useful. Our elder’s facility has a beautiful dining room, and sometimes we all go out to it for lunch.
There are other activities we can encourage participation in. There are activities based around holidays, a weekly happy hour…usually complete with concert and various other events. You can ask if the patient wants to go, say you plan on attending and/or ask how the event went.
Calendar: This is important. Get a fairly large calendar and write down events coming up on it. When you come to visit, sign it on the day you’re there. If the facility offers such things as hair and nail specialists, make sure they’re marked on the calendar and the appointment is made. This helps when they forget that something occurred, as it’s right there on the calendar.
Be There: This goes back to “lead by example.” Pick some activities that appeal to you and attend. Is there a performance coming up you’d like to hear? How about a tea or other party? It doesn’t have to be an everyday thing, but once a week or so could be the breakthrough that’s needed.
Here is an example of how that works. I mentioned to our elder that we were going to do something for Valentine’s Day. She wasn’t interested. In fact she was downright derogatory of it. However, on the day that it happened she was there. Why? Because I was there. That’s all it took.
When I was a teenager in the nursing home, I saw a lot of elderly people put into the facility and abandoned. Most of them had no visitors. A few might have a visitor on Easter or Christmas…maybe. It broke my heart and I promised that wouldn’t happen to my elders. It’s up to me…to all of us…to make sure that our elders know they are loved and not parked in a facility to die. It may take time, but our elders deserve to be cared for and encouraging them to get out and participate in activities is part of that.