A range of activities, an enabling environment and support from family and staff are key factors in participation for residents with dementia, a University of Tasmania study show.
The study, which involved 19 residents, 17 family members and 15 staff from four residential aged care facilities, aimed to identify the factors that support and enable people with dementia to participate in meaningful activities.
It involved interviews with residents with dementia and their family members and focus group interviews with aged care staff.
University of Tasmania research fellow Laura Tierney said everyone agreed it was important to have adequate activities available to enable participation, but opinions differed on who could initiate them.
“All participant groups talked about the importance of activity opportunities, and most participants reported that there were plenty of opportunities for activities that were organised by the facility,” Ms Tierney told the Australian Association of Gerontology conference on Wednesday.
She said staff emphasised that having a lot of activity opportunities allowed them to cater for each resident and their interests.
However, the study found that residents and family members were often focused on the activities organised by the facility and didn’t consider they could also initiate them. For example, some residents who didn’t participate thought the only other opportunity was to go to bed, Ms Tierney said.
Despite overall general satisfaction with the current activity opportunities, the study found there were few or no activities provided on weekends when activity staff did not work, she said.
Having a suitable environment was also identified as an enabling factor to engage residents.
Ms Tierney said there was a basic need for an environment that free of physical hazards, particularly for residents with impaired mobility.
“The areas where activities are being held need to be accessible to residents, and ideally, that would be without needing assistance from staff to get to that area,” she said.
“Other aspects of the environment that was important for residents with dementia was having an environment that was familiar, small, quiet and contained,” she said.
The study also found that receiving support from family and staff better enabled residents to participate in activities, however support was mostly provided by staff, Ms Tierney said.
“That reassured family members that residents were being supported to participate even when they weren’t able to be present,” she said.
Support from staff also involved reminding residents to go to activities, identifying specific aspects of an activity that might engage a particular resident, and encouraging residents to get involved.
“Some residents really needed to be reassured that the activity would be a positive experience for them and that was enough to support them to go along to the activity. Staff also reported they often needed to initiate the activity,” she said.
Providing suitable activities for residents with dementia is important, Ms Tierney said.
“These types of activity opportunities are particularly important for residents with dementia because they may find it difficult to initiate and participate in activities on their own and they really do depend on those activities that are organised by the staff.
“However, without support and tailoring of the activities to the needs and interests of individual residents, activity calendars alone won’t be adequate for facilitating participation,” she said.
The AAG Conference takes place as a virtual event on 18 – 20 October.
Australian Ageing Agenda is a media partner of AAG.