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Fun-guarding in care homes: As important as safeguarding?

This article was written by George Coxon, Health & Social Care specialist, Care Home owner, South West Care Collaborative lead, MHNA National Committee & SW Academic Health Science Network Associate.

It was first published on 1st October 2019


Older people living in residential facilities have many vital needs which care providers work hard to be able to meet. One area which is sometimes overlooked is the need for older people to continue to have fun. Our 'fun-guarding' initiative highlights some issues, ideas and examples in ensuring older people's need for enjoyment is protected and prioritised in care settings.

I’ve been talking about this idea for some time and was encouraged to put some words together to suggest we need to regard fun-guarding as vital as safeguarding in care homes.

Doing a quick Google search on this, all you can find is lots of serious (and of course important) guidance and examples about safeguarding. Am I surprised? No. Am I disappointed? A little. Yet with the able help of some of my recently established ‘alliance of the like- minded’ we have the opportunity to make the case for fun-guarding, and launch a campaign that has already captured a number of hearts and minds in residential and non residential care land.

The challenge we set (via the gift of Twitter primarily) was for five of us to say five things in 500 words or less. The resource series we have created collects our thoughts on the topic and set out a guide for others and a template and measure tool for each other.

So my 5 things about fun-guarding:

1. Fun is a very individual thing We celebrated Mick Jagger’s 76th birthday having a proper go at singing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction" – while it was a perfectly adequate rendition with raucous efforts, a few of our folk had fingers firmly pressed in ears!

2. It's all about balance Excitement and danger give us a true adrenaline rush – does this leave us as we enter older age? Of course not. The recent picture (above) of residents from a care home seen being plunged into the sea lifted the spirits of many and they did look inspiringly terrified as much as thrilled. As always, assessing, managing, sharing and documenting risk is a crucial part of all excellent fun-guarding.

3. What are the emotions associated with fun-guarding? We can safely say (excuse the safe reference there) that excitement, hilarity, competition and perhaps exhaustion are consequences of good fun-guarding – the absence of at least two of these per fun-guarding experience above suggests there is still room for improvement.

4. Culture is important They say culture eats strategy for breakfast – it certainly eats fun-guarding for lunch too if we don’t embed an enthusiasm for doing well-considered daring things at regular intervals in care homes. Innovation, trying out ideas, being creative and imaginative – you’re on the right fun-guarding journey when applying these pointers.

5. What about your outcomes? It might seem there is system-wide obsession with outcomes – they are of course important in measuring if we’re getting it right, in the right way at the right time, etc. But for me, fun-guarding 'outcomes' quite simply are lively moments of buzzing atmospheres, dilated pupils perhaps and reports of those sleepy daytime power naps being naps between fun-based experiences - I really do believe when I see uproarious laughter this acts as a better quality measure of care needs being met than the asking of questions in the usual dull and predictable way.

Would you like to know more about Fun-guarding? Find out how you can get involved

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