Promoting Activity and Purpose

Older people who are living in residential aged care settings, or who are frail and living in the community, need to be able to stay involved in purposeful activity. Their health (both physical and mental) and their quality of life are both improved by being active and stimulated. Some programs and facilities employ specialist professionals who devise specific activities that are designed for frail older people. In some services, this forms part of the nurse's role. Because residential facilities are the clients' home, purposeful activities may include domestic tasks such as cooking or caring for pets and gardens. Other activities, such as internet searching, game playing, outings, dance, singing and story-telling may also be part of the programs offered.

Show transcript

Diversional therapy for most aged people is basically about keeping them physically and mentally active. With the smaller group activities, craft and the ability to reminisce at the same time. Cooking is great because there is a whole procedure to cooking. Just storytelling, reading stories all that sort of thing but reminiscing has to be big there so you’ve got lots of links and lots of ties.

Cups of tea, we might sit and drink tea and talk for an hour but also home skill activities. We find they work very well. Getting the resident involved in drying the dishes, setting a table, making them feel comfortable, they have ownership then of the place as well.

Diversional therapy is great for people because what happens is it boots their self esteem. It boots their own independence. They feel like real human beings who are giving and they don’t get an opportunity to do that much anymore in a situation they are living in, especially in aged care facilities. We tend to take that away from them a bit. To give them an opportunity where they can get back to giving.

Social interaction, you know just having a normal life and being busy. None of our residents have sat around all day not doing anything, it is important that they do purposeful activity.

Show transcript

We find with dementia specific diversional therapy that it is really a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants type thing. See what residents are up to that day. Some people have better days than others, just like everyone else.

Sometimes you have to be in the middle of an activity and see that it’s not working so that you don’t continue to push it. You put it away and you do something else and that’s what makes you a good dementia specific diversional therapist. The ability to know that you don’t want to setup your residents to fail, make sure that they can do activities that they are able to do. With some help and encouragement.

These are the sorts of things you can do as a diversional therapist. We had one lady who use to paint and has since lost that ability but with a little encouragement and both and physical and verbal encouragement shes been able to produce some new versions of her art I suppose you would say. Art is wonderful because it’s also a social activity and residents don’t have to be great at it. They can do all different sorts of activities but again it’s the reminiscing and the talking while you’re doing it’s not just the act of what you do, it’s the way in which you do it.

A lot of people with dementia recognise words and recognise letters but when they recognise words the comprehension may not be there, so a recognition of a letter is much easier. We’ll do word games with it, we’ll guess boys names and girls names, or food, or countries, or cities, or towns.

Nurse: “Here is a hard one, Q”
Patient: “Queen”
Nurse:“That’s about all, isn’t it?”

And that then gets them back to their older days, you know their childhood, it just helps their mind and gets them ticking over. They’re the things that they know well, you pick things that they know well, most people no matter how advanced their dementia is can still think of some names, girls names or boys names or things that start with certain letters and it’s fun.

Thinking challenge

In the video, Gemma talks about the importance of reminiscing and also the need for activities to be purposeful.

  • Why do you think activities in residential aged care facilities would need to have a specific purpose?
  • If you were older and frail, what kinds of activities might interest you?
  • Why do you think that reminiscing is an important part of activites in these settings?