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Activities in the Long-Term Care Setting

Therapeutic activities are essential for seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities to help them maintain a sense of self worth and dignity. Therapists often work with others within the facility to develop a comprehensive plan of care that suits the needs of each resident.

According to the 2010-11 edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' “Occupational Outlook Handbook,” certain activities can help recover basic motor skills, cognitive abilities, and confidence as well as reduce anxiety and depression. One of the goals of the therapist within a skilled nursing facility is to help their patients become as independent as possible and maintain quality of life.

Daily Living: For senior 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 themselves will add to their quality of life.

Reality Orientation: Patients in the long-term care environment often lose touch with reality and the world around them. Therefore, a lot of activities are 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.

Exercise: A well-rounded program for senior patients includes a regular physical-fitness program. According to, exercise is good for staying strong and managing many of the symptoms of aging. The plan of care considers each patient’s physical condition. 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: Cultural activities enhance the daily lives of residents by bringing back some of what they were interested in as younger people. Music therapy has been shown to soothe agitated patients. These activities 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. Seasonal activities such as fall carnivals, spring festivals and summer picnics and also religious services and celebrations help to round out the program.





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