In our first-ever Activity of the Month piece, we look into how the arts can enhance your residents’ stay with you.

Over the last decade, people have come to the realisation that arts and creativity play a significant role in one’s health and wellbeing.

Within care homes, staff have actively seen the benefits of creative activities on their residents – whether these are tailored to groups or to a particular individual – especially as memories and cognitive skills tend to deteriorate with age.

It is for this reason that we wanted to put emphasis on the importance of creating and planning bespoke activities for the elderly, and how it can help each resident reconnect with reality and develop trustworthy relationship with both their peers and members of staff.

The implement of the arts within healthcare facilities has been long discussed, which means that nowadays we are blessed with a wide range of research that leads to better and more accurate methods of introducing these practices to a care home community. This enables staff to plan according to the latest data and responses these techniques have provoked, allowing them to have a better understanding if their own residents’ needs.

The first thing to consider when evaluating whether to include a new activity or deciding to practice creativity within your care home is the fact that art comes in many forms. Whether your residents have a flair for drawing or a long-lost interest in pottery making, or just quite simply need something to keep their mind busy, there are many creative activities you can put in place to help them recuperate or enhance some of their skills. What’s more, there are health benefits to including creativity within your care home – especially when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.

In the ‘Creative Homes: How the Arts can contribute to quality of life in residential care’ report directed by the barring Foundation in collaboration with The National Care Forum (NFC) and the National Association of Activity Provides for Older People (NAPA), the authors state: “If we think about the whole range of expressive and performance arts, there can be few of us who have not had the experience of how they can make us think, laugh, cry, help us through sadder times, introduce a little excitement or fun and connect us to something that is important in our past or present.”

However, there is a massive difference between art therapy and art sessions delivered at elderly care establishments. With the first requiring specific qualifications, organising art classes and bespoke creative activities for your residents is a lot more approachable – and incredibly helpful!

Another element that you should keep in mind is that every patient can respond differently; not only because of their personal interests, but also depending on their health condition. Some could be affected by an illness that impacts their motor skills while others could be suffering from disorders that lead to cognitive impairment; this means that each of them could be attracted and able to respond to a certain activity, requiring a range of sessions that can adapt to any situation.

Several care homes in the UK have now integrated art within their offering, organising events and spaces for residents to reconnect with their creativity. Opening up activities to friends and family is also something you could try out; often, this results in re-igniting long-lost memories and it facilitates conversation, stimulating the lodgers’ skills. Whether your residents’ physical health is deteriorating or not, it is essential that you give them the means to express themselves in their own way, observing them to identify their needs and allowing them to carry on their activity at their own pace.

If you’re worried, as mentioned before, that some of your occupants won’t respond well to group sessions, it is always possible to provide them with their own space to work in. Placing equipment and materials that can catch their interest and can be operated with at any given time during the session is the best way to get them to engage in some way.

As furtherly explained in the aforementioned report, “as long as we bear individual needs in mind, different forms of arts activity both individually and in groups, can contribute to health and well-being and help people stay connected to social groups and communities and to a meaningful past, present, future and end of life.”

Ultimately, you want to do anything to help your residents; involving art in your program will allow you to support them mentally and emotionally, focusing on their wellbeing while also stimulating their cognitive and motor skills. Not to mention the benefits this could have on your business, as implementing creative activities into your home can elevate marketing and help you stand out from the competition, appealing to a wider audience and giving you the upper hand.

Simple creative activities go a long way and positively affect the body as much as the mind, making the experience in your care home one that your lodgers will cherish and enjoy not only amongst their peers, but also with friends and family.