On course for happier residents

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An old people’s home where residents’ health and wellbeing increased dramatically after it introduced educational classes is backing plans to increase learning opportunities in similar establishments elsewhere.

Tansley House Residential Care Home in Matlock introduced educational courses for its 20 residents run by local charity First Taste in 2006. These included information technology, arts and crafts courses, as well as a chair-based exercise programme.

The result, according to Tansley House manager Beverley Windle, was a range of benefits for its 20 residents – they became more engaged with each other and needed less medication and fewer incontinence pads.

Psychological benefits

“We set out to turn round a very institutionalised home where there was a lack of stimulation, with many residents spending too much time sitting in a chair, often watching television,” said Windle.

“Now residents enjoy life, are not asleep during the day and thus go to bed tired and not needing sleeping tablets. No resident requires anti-depressants or antipsychotic medications.”

First Taste has moved from providing class tutors to training Tansley House staff to run them. The home won a group award from the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education in 2009.

In 2004, the home recorded 604 packets of incontinence pads used by residents. In 2007 the figure dropped to 334 and was down to 189 in 2009.

“The classes had health and psychological benefits, because residents enjoyed doing the activities,” said Windle. “They are so busy during the day that they sleep well on an evening – they don’t nod off during the day.

“We encourage people to be as independent as possible – when they want to go to the toilet they go and we work to help them. Most homes do like a toilet rota whereby they take people at intervals of two to three hours. I think some homes rely on putting the pads on residents – we don’t want that to be the case.”

Local links

After Tansley House’s success, Windle said plans by the national self-help education network the University of the Third Age (U3A) to extend its courses into care homes should be supported.

U3A’s Francis Beckett said the organisation was aiming to provide online course materials for the many older people in care homes that now have access to computers. It also wants to set up a link between its 800 local groups and nearby homes.

“Learning new things is great fun at any age and can help stave off some of the more distressing stages of later life and dependency,” he said.

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