Numerous care homes have developed their own guide for providing high-quality care; they may use Tom Kitwood’s Flower, which is based on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, or they may have developed their own along similar lines.
They are, of course, extremely beneficial in emphasizing the importance of each aspect for each individual, but I believe they miss the point of providing quality care and support to older adults living in care homes. Surely, life is more than survival. I’d like to see one simple sentence added: ‘we facilitate the use of all of our senses.’
We learn the five senses in school: touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight. These can all be exercised through daily activities, and many activity coordinators will assist residents in engaging in a variety of activities that engage these senses.
However, what about the rest of our senses? Our sense of liberty, our sense of equilibrium, our sense of space, and our sense of belonging, among other things. Perhaps most importantly, our inherent sense of fun and humour. They sustain us, even on our darkest days. Are these considered to be of equal value?
When my grandmother did something a little differently to enhance everyday experiences, she used the phrase “well, it’s a bit of fun!” This could be a reference to Friday night’s chip supper by the river or to a piece of costume jewelry that was a little ’showy’. They were small things, but they added a little something to the norms of life for her.
Numerous enjoyable activities are prohibited because they are deemed ‘childish’ or demeaning – but if you believe it will be enjoyable, give it a try! You’ll quickly learn how your neighbors feel about it.
Discuss ‘bucket lists’ with residents and encourage them to create their own. There is no such thing as being too old to live happily ever after. Making the list can be enjoyable as residents become more daring with their suggestions – cycling, abseiling, water skiing, and skydiving. Observe their eyes light up as ideas begin to flow quickly and furiously, with remarks such as ‘can you imagine?’ eliciting giggles.
Choose one simple and one difficult question for each resident. Ascertain that they are personal objectives and that they truly desire the opportunity to pursue them. Bear in mind that they may require reassurance if the activity is extremely risky. Establish your objectives, both small victories and significant accomplishments.
Scary? You are aware that you should do something frightening every day. Prepare your risk assessments – what are the consequences of doing so? And what are the consequences of not doing so? (Disappointment, depression, a lack of direction in life, and a loss of confidence are all possible outcomes).
Ascertain that you have taken all reasonable precautions to minimize the risks – and then overcome your fear and proceed. Share the adrenaline rush; it’s beneficial to your health. Then, share the joy of accomplishment.
“Well, it’s a little amusement!”