I spend quite a lot of my time talking about meaningful activity: what it is, how we facilitate it, why it matters. But one area that almost no one ever asks me about is: how do we document that it occurred? For those of us who work in health and social care, documentation is usually a much bigger part of our jobs than we would like it to be. However we hear all the time if it wasn’t documented it didn’t happen.
But how do we capture in our documentation what really matters? How can we convey the meaningful-ness rather than recording that an activity happened? In our Making Activity Meaningful course we explore what it means to document personal outcomes for people with dementia. The amount of time and ink that is wasted identifying what activity happened rather than what happened as a result of activity involvement is staggering. It does not matter if we have a cinema afternoon if we cannot identify whether the cinema afternoon actually mattered to someone.
The process of capturing outcomes begins long before an activity even takes place. First we need to understand the story and the preferences of the person who might be attending. This is important to making sure we understand what activity options might be preferable and understanding what ways a person may want to be involved. Too often we provide passive opportunities to “attend”, when (from a therapeutic perspective) what makes an activity meaningful is the active involvement in the process of an activity. While a person might attend a cinema afternoon, more meaning may actually be found in discussing what films are of interest for the cinema programme, or the popping of the popcorn, or the preparing of the room. It is in recognising what matters to the individual and providing opportunities to be involved in a way that most suits each person that access to meaningful activity is provided.
Then we look at the impact on the person. It is not about whether the cinema afternoon happened, or whether the individual attended said cinema event (these are outputs), it is about the impact on the well-being of the person (this is the outcome). Outcomes can be captured even when there is no output. For example, you may see me laugh, or cry, or sing along when my carer sings You are my sunshine but this wasn’t scheduled on weekly activity calendar, and no one will have recorded this for airplay. However we should be capturing the impact that this simple activity had on me. Outcomes should always be the focus or the punchline of documentation. After all, the impact on the individual is why we do an activity in the first place.
If you are interested in understanding more about an outcomes based approach for the support of people living with dementia, I highly recommend reading the Talking Points guide: Personal Outcomes Approach.
If you are interested in how to bring an outcomes approach to your activity provision check out the DSDC’s course: Making activity meaningful for people living with dementia.