Therapeutic activities are essential for geriatric patients in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities to help those people maintain a sense of self worth and dignity. Recreational therapists often work with physical and occupational therapists to develop a comprehensive plan that suits the needs of each person in their care. According to the 2010-11 edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' “Occupational Outlook Handbook,” activities can help recover basic motor skills, cognitive abilities and confidence as well as reduce anxiety and depression. One of the goals of the recreational therapist or activities director in a geriatric facility is to help the patients become as independent and have the highest quality life possible. This may require trial and error in motivating the patient to participate.
For geriatric patients to maintain dignity and confidence, they need to continue or relearn as many of their daily activities as possible. This includes bathing, brushing their teeth, grooming, cooking and whatever else they did in their younger years. Even if the patient doesn’t regain 100 percent independence, the ability to do anything for himself will add to his quality of life.
Patients in institutions often lose touch with reality and the world around them. The therapists and family members should include activities designed to remind the patient of the season, day of the week and time of day. Methods may include calendars stationed in frequently visited areas, clocks that are easy to read, seasonal and holiday decorations, and opportunities to stay abreast of current events. Regular announcements over a public address system can incorporate many of these reminders. If possible, engage the patients in the planning and execution of the activities to reinforce their recognition of time and place.
A well-rounded program for geriatric patients includes a regular physical-fitness program. According to HelpGuide.org, exercise is good for staying strong and managing many of the symptoms of aging. Choose a routine that takes the patient’s physical condition into consideration. Ambulatory patients can walk, dance and do light calisthenics. Patients in wheelchairs can exercise by tossing beach balls, waving scarves and doing arm exercises.
Cultural activities enhance the daily lives of geriatrics patients by bringing back some of what they were interested in as younger people. Music therapy has been shown to soothe agitated patients. Include opportunities to play instruments, sing and listen to favorite songs for the best results. Other cultural activities may include art, crafts, pet therapy and variety shows. Add seasonal activities such as fall carnivals, spring festivals and summer picnics. Religious services and celebrations round out the geriatric activities program.