Fun-guarding: Does it bring joy?
“We don’t stop having fun because we grow old, we grow old because we stop having fun!”
Fun-guarding is, I believe, paramount in the health and social care industry.
'Age appropriate' is something that I hear often in dementia care and it’s something that I completely disagree with. The question shouldn’t be 'Is it age appropriate?' The question should be 'does it bring joy?'
In my own experience in dementia care, many things which are perhaps initially questioned are – in the end – wonderful additions to person-centred, joy-inducing activities.
Wooden bead mazes (where beads are pulled along twisted coloured wires) fidget spinners, sensory toys, baby dolls (doll therapy) and various other games and toys (Elefun is a favourite in my care home) bring so much joy on a one-to-one or group basis.
So, should we take these things away because their initial product marketing was aimed at children? I believe this would be a tragic decision. This same argument can be applied to music. Party songs are part of everyone’s life at some point, whether it’s in your own childhood or that of your children or grandchildren. Children’s party songs are catchy, happy songs usually with actions and are mostly connected to people’s happy memories. Who doesn’t love the Hokey Cokey? The added benefit of this type of song is that the movements are simple and repetitive and all the endorphin inducing “dancing” helps maintain movement, which makes a huge difference to general wellbeing. Again, should we refrain from using this sort of music because it is aimed at children? Many people say that those living with dementia “revert back” to childhood behaviours, however this can be a beautiful thing when accepted for what it is.
In childhood life is simple - if something makes you happy you smile, if it makes you sad, you cry. And when things are beautiful and colourful and fun, you laugh.You live in each moment as if it’s the only one that matters, and tomorrow isn’t even a consideration. Life like this could be a wonderful experience.
I have often been criticized for going either 'too young' for my residents or forgetting how old they are when I book things like speed boat trips or chocolate factory tours - however once we return with huge smiles on faces and sides aching from laughter, people soon realise the importance of fun-guarding.
Safeguarding is one of the most important parts of care work, and in my opinion fun-guarding should be up there too.
Person-led care with fun and laughter at the core is imperative for the wellbeing of residents in care. When someone feels 'known' it instantly makes them feel more valued, loved and nurtured. When people feel this way health improves naturally. People who feel settled, supported and loved automatically eat better, sleep better and are less likely to experience depression, anxiety, falls and hospital admissions.
Making your care facility person-led creates an atmosphere of 'home' rather than 'hospital' and this makes all the difference for not only residents but staff too.