So care staff plans meaningful personal time for residents at the nursing home

This article is written from a Swedish perspective. Hopefully, it can inspire interested individuals from other countries.

Personal time and social content in care is an important quality factor in elderly homes. The resident has the right to be offered meaningful activities during what is called personal time. It is important for the operation to evaluate and develop the content of the personal time. Similarly, it is important to document in order to take advantage of what works and develop it further.
Planning and implementing "personal time" with the residents of the elderly home is an important part of creating meaningful and personal care. Personal time is about giving each resident individual attention and support, which can improve their quality of life and well-being. Here are some strategies and tips for care staff to consider when planning personal time.

Foto - Frugan - Mostphotos

The inspiration for this article was drawn from the essay "Own time" - well-being for the person with dementia and job satisfaction among staff by Iréne Eriksson 2006, written at the Institute for Gerontology, School of Health Sciences, Jönköping.

The resident's own time

Own time means that the resident gets extra time each week with their contact person. "Own time" is scheduled and during the scheduled time, an activity is carried out that is chosen and adapted to that person's interests, desires, needs and abilities. Staff have many tasks. It is easy to prioritize things that are part of people's basic needs such as laundry, cleaning, food and physical care, i.e. what is visible, what is seen if we do or refrain from doing.

Social interaction - a human need

People who have progressed further in their dementia development may find it difficult to participate in a group activity. If there is no scheduled own time, they get no time at all from the staff except for care situations. All people need interpersonal interaction. For people who cannot participate in a group activity, there is a risk that it will be absent.

Care should be fair and here some people risk not being part of activities. We must pay attention to those who are quiet and inactive. Otherwise, those who demand attention also risk getting all the attention. Not giving attention to a person risks accelerating that people retreat into themselves and become more isolated.

During "own time", the attention is directed at the person with dementia by the contact person doing something together with the individual that they experience as positive. In the choice of activity, start from the individual's personality, life history, previous habits, interests, desires and needs. The important thing is not that it is an activity in the true sense of the word, but the important thing is that the contact person is close, sees and confirms the person's.

Activity that can add a touch of luxury

Examples of activities that can occur during "own time" are many, such as picnics with a coffee basket, going to the flower shop, the market, reading, looking at photos, footbaths, tactile stimulation, bathtub baths, etc. The important thing is to start from who the person is, what they have liked and like now. What can the person handle. Just sitting quietly with someone or doing something with your hands while the resident watches can also be an activity.

It's about attitude

Being able to sit quietly with someone can provide an opportunity for concentration. Suddenly a word comes from someone who has not spoken for a long time. You look at pictures together and suddenly there is a comment about a photo. A flower or a chanterelle can evoke memories and be the basis for conversation. It becomes contact on a different deeper level. Working with "own time" is more about attitude than time. Start modestly with half an hour. Make a schedule where the time is planned. More on this in a blog about daily planning. In dementia care, there must always be some flexibility. Swap time between the residents if it does not fit. Make a brief documentation of what you have done during "own time".

Always document

With documentation, the valuable work done to make the resident feel good becomes visible. We need tools in care and "own time" can be the tool needed to get started with activity but also a tool to see the person/individual.

How care staff can plan "own time" with residents in elderly care

Planning and implementing "own time" with residents in elderly care is an important part of creating meaningful and personal care. Own time is about giving each resident individual attention and support, which can improve their quality of life and well-being. Here are some strategies and tips for care staff to consider when planning own time.

Understand the residents' needs and interests

Individual mapping: In order to plan meaningful own time, it is important to understand each resident's needs, interests, and preferences. This can be done through conversations with the residents, their relatives, and by reading their care plans.
Person-centered care: By starting from the individual's interests and needs, care staff can create activities and moments that really mean something to the resident. It can be anything from listening to favorite music, reading a book together, or taking a walk in the garden.

Create a flexible and adapted plan

Flexibility: It is important to be flexible and able to adapt plans according to the residents' daily form and mood. Some days a resident may prefer calm and relaxing activities, while other days more active or social activities may be more suitable.
Plan in advance: Although flexibility is important, it can be good to have a basic plan for own time. By having a list of possible activities adapted to each resident, you as an employee can quickly find suitable alternatives depending on the situation.

Build strong relationships

Trust and communication: Building strong relationships with the residents is fundamental to creating meaningful own time. By actively listening, showing empathy, and being present, staff can create a safe and supportive environment.
Create continuity: One of the basic ideas of own time is that the same staff always keeps it. In this way, a relationship is created and you get to know each other on a deeper level, which can lead to more meaningful and rewarding moments.

Encourage participation and independence

The resident should participate in the planning: Let the residents be involved in planning their own time. Ask them what they would like to do and try to include their wishes and ideas in the activity plan. This promotes a sense of participation and self-determination.
Support independence: Encourage residents to be as independent as possible during own time. Give them the opportunity to perform tasks themselves or actively participate in the activities. This can strengthen their self-esteem and their sense of control over their own everyday life.

Document and evaluate

Follow up and document: Document what has been done during own time and how the resident has reacted to the activities. This provides valuable information for future planning and can help identify which activities are most appreciated.
Evaluate and adapt: Regularly evaluate how own time works and make necessary adjustments. By constantly improving and adapting activities, staff can ensure that own time is always meaningful and rewarding for the residents.

Create a pleasant environment

Adapt the environment: Create a pleasant and stimulating environment for own time. This may involve adapting lighting, using comfortable furniture, and ensuring that there are necessary aids and resources available.
Focus on calm and tranquility: To make own time as relaxing and enjoyable as possible, make sure to minimize disturbing noise and interruptions. A calm and peaceful environment can help residents feel more relaxed and comfortable.

By planning and implementing own time with care and attention to the residents' individual needs and interests, nursing home staff can create meaningful moments that really make a difference in the residents' lives.

Reflection questions - Own time
Care staff:
- How do you handle "own time" for residents whose contact person is absent?
- Is there a possibility to give all residents "own time"?
- Do you keep track that everyone gets their own time?

Manager, nurse, occupational therapist and physiotherapist:
- How do you follow up that everyone gets "own time"?
- How does the contact person get an introduction to working with own time?
- Is "own time" documented in a good way?
- Is it clear what the time has been used for?

Residents and relatives:  
- Do the residents get "own time" of good quality?
- Is the effort documented?

Erland Olsson
Specialist Nurse
Quality in Elderly Care

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