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Meaningful activity

Fundamental to the delivery of high quality, safe and effective care for residents living in care homes

This guidance is to support staff to consider and plan meaningful activity when caring for people in a care home. The principles and practice of supporting people to engage in meaningful activity can, and should, be considered within all care settings.

NICE (2013) suggests that it is important that older people in care homes be able to take part in activity, including activities of daily living, that helps to maintain and/or improve their health and mental wellbeing.

The Nursing Midwifery Council (2015) expects nurses and nurse associates to:

“deliver the fundamentals of care effectively.”

Meaningful activity incorporates physical, social and leisure activities which are led by and/or tailored to a person, taking into account their interests, needs, preferences and abilities (NICE, 2015).

In addition to structured and planned/organised social and leisure activities such as groups, clubs or trips, meaningful activity can be as spontaneous and simple as the person engaging in meaningful conversation and/or activities of daily living. This could include supporting them with dressing, having a bath, eating a meal or helping with day-to-day tasks such as laying the table for a meal or making a bed. This type of activity also enables the person to retain some independence through care staff doing activities ‘with’ the person and not ‘for’ them.

The five senses of touch, smell, taste, sound and sight are helpful to consider when planning and/or supporting meaningful activity.
Incorporating meaningful activity within care and support planning enhances the delivery of high-quality, person-centred care by ensuring physical, emotional, and social needs are met. It can also improve quality of life.

Meaningful activity can support the people’s physical and mental health by:

  • giving a sense of personal identity and purpose
  • giving structure to the day
  • enabling the person to feel useful and helpful
  • contributing to happiness
  • creating social networks
  • improving sleep
  • improving nutritional intake
  • providing pain control
  • combating loneliness
  • reducing falls
  • improving strength and balance
  • reducing anxiety
  • reducing behaviours which may challenge
  • developing skills and knowledge.

Planning and supporting a person to engage in meaningful activity can also be positive for staff, offering a sense of fulfilment and job satisfaction. It can also benefit the organisation in relation to internal governance structures and regulatory outcomes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of supporting meaningful activity with residents in care homes. However, it has also posed challenges in terms of the imposed restrictions on close physical contact, isolation and the barriers associated with care staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

Life Story work enables staff to get to know the person by developing or having access to a comprehensive, personal biography of their life events. In turn, this can help with planning meaningful activity with the person.

More information is available here:
Dementia UK. Creating a Life Story

'This is me' is a tool produced by the Alzheimer’s Society that can support those living with dementia if transferred to an unfamiliar place. This can also be utilised as a tool to support the planning and delivery of meaningful activity within a care setting.

The tool is available here:
Alzheimers Society. This is me

Assessing and managing risk is a core aspect of caring for people. When planning meaningful activity, any potential risks need to be identified and mitigated to ensure the safety of the person and others.

Please note: products/organisations listed are not affiliated to the RCN.

  • Wii sports such as bowling, tennis, and golf
  • Local clubs/groups such as book clubs, walking, art and gardening groups
  • Active partnerships
  • Talking books
  • Postcards of kindness
  • Smell, touch and taste quizzes
  • Create a newsletter and involve residents
  • Discus objects on a memory tray
  • Facilitate group discussions, focusing on the daily news/books are helpful to give structure.

Page last updated - 27/06/2023