Big steps to new quality of life

People in care are enjoying physical and emotional benefits from an initiative to increase their levels of activity

Abe enjoys spending more time in the garden now

Although it has only been running for a few months, the CAPA (Care… About Physical Activity) programme is making some significant changes to people’s lives in care throughout Scotland.

Some people have made big strides in becoming more physically active through the Scottish Government initiative, which is being led by the Care Inspectorate.

One of them is Wullie from East Ayrshire who has been supported to get back on his bike and rediscover his love of cycling.

Once care professionals at Dallmellington Care Centre found out about how much he missed being out on the road with his bicycle they decided to make his wish come true. They bought him a bike, a helmet and a high-vis jacket and accompanied him as he got used to cycling again and grew more confident in his abilities.

He now goes out cycling regularly on his own with a picnic for his lunch and has become much more active himself, volunteering to post letters and doing the gardening.

Laura Haggarty is the CAPA Improvement Adviser who supports the 15 care services in the East Ayrshire partnership area involved in the programme to help people to move more.

She is delighted with Wullie’s progress and said: “Staff tell me the difference in Wullie is amazing. They see a huge change in his mood, level of activity and engagement. When I spoke to him he said he’d also love to swim again. Perhaps that’s something that the care home will decide to do with some of their improvement priorities to enable Wullie to move more.”

Wullie gets on his bike

Abe is another care home resident who has been supported to enjoy his love of gardening, as Val Allan, Lead for East Ayrshire Health & Social Care Partnership, explained: “Abe was very isolated with very restrictive movement and did not really engage with people at the care home, but thanks to CAPA the staff spent a bit of time with him talking about what he liked to do and they discovered that he used to like gardening. So to help him get outside, the care home bought a temporary greenhouse. Now he’s moving about much more, walking about the garden and working in the greenhouse.

“Another benefit is that this activity has given Abe something to talk about. I think this is why CAPA is so powerful. It’s not just the physical benefits, it’s about the emotional benefits too – it gives people a feeling of achievement and joy and gives them a sense of purpose.”

Val’s experience of CAPA in the 15 care settings in the programme has been very positive, but it’s the little steps towards improvement that bring her the most delight. She explained: “It’s great when people can get a new lease of life through cycling or gardening, but for many people it’s about simply moving a bit more – it’s about increasing strength and encouraging engagement with activities. It shows that people can do simple things that many of us take for granted, particularly those things that involve managing our own personal care tasks.

“For example, when I go into a home and there’s music on and everyone is singing and dancing, or sitting, clapping and laughing if they are physically unable to stand up to dance, that is a massive outcome for those people. And they don’t even think about the exercise they are getting as they are simply enjoying themselves.”

Laura agreed: “It good that the services run organised activities which help promote more movement for their residents but CAPA is about looking at opportunities to bring more simple and small increments in physical movement into a person’s everyday activities.

“This could be as simple as encouraging people to get their own daily newspaper from a magazine rack instead of having it handed to them, to encouraging them to get involved in meaningful daily tasks around their care service.”

Laura gave many examples of where residents were becoming more active though conducting simple tasks, such as three ladies who enjoy laying the table for dinner and another lady with dementia who helps with the laundry, which, in turn, has helped to reduce her anxiety.

She added: “One gentleman was encouraged to walk to the sink to brush his own teeth. Before, he used to sit in his wheelchair and let the care staff brush his teeth for him, but he has been encouraged, step by step, to build up his confidence and become more independent.”

Val added: “I am blown away by the enthusiasm for CAPA in East Ayrshire and one of the biggest benefits I am seeing and hearing about so far is the amount of laughs and happiness the programme is bringing to residents and importantly to care professionals as well.”