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Keeping Nursing Home Residents Active and Engaged

Nursing homes in California are required to have extensive activity programs for their residents. These programs are designed to keep nursing home residents active, physically and mentally, and to keep them from languishing in their rooms.

Knowing these regulations will help your loved one make the most of activity programs in their nursing home.

§72379. Activity Program-General

An activity program means a program which is staffed and equipped to encourage the participation of each patient, to meet the needs and interests of each patient and to encourage self-care and resumption of normal activities.

§72381. Activity Program-Requirements


(a) Patients shall be encouraged to participate in activities planned to meet their individual needs. An activity program shall have a written, planned schedule of social and other purposeful independent or group activities. The program shall be designed to make life more meaningful, to stimulate and support physical and mental capabilities to the fullest extent, to enable the patient to maintain the highest attainable social, physical and emotional functioning but not necessarily to correct or remedy a disability.

(b) The activity program shall consist of individual, small and large group activities which are designed to meet the needs and interests of each patient and which include, but are not limited to:

(1) Social activities.

(2) Indoor and out-of-doors activities, which may include supervised daily walks.

(3) Activities away from the facility.

(4) Religious programs.

(5) Opportunity for patient involvement for planning and implementation of the activity program.

(6) Creative activities.

(7) Educational activities.

(8) Exercise activities.

(c) Activities shall be available on a daily basis.

(d) The activity leader, at a minimum, shall:

(1) Develop, implement and supervise the activity program.

(2) Plan and conduct in-service training of the staff of the facility at least annually.

(3) Coordinate the activity schedule with other patient services.

(4) Maintain a current list of patients from the nursing service who are not physically able to participate in activities.

(5) Post the activity schedule conspicuously, in large visible print, for the information of patients and staff.

(6) Request and maintain equipment and supplies.

(7) Develop and maintain contacts with community agencies and organizations.

(8) Develop and implement activities for patients unable to leave their rooms.

(9) Maintain progress notes specific to the patient’s activity plan which are recorded at least quarterly, and more frequently if needed, in the patient’s health record.

(10) Maintain a current record of the type frequency of activities provided and the names of patients participating in each activity.

(e) Where appropriate, the activity leader may recruit, train and supervise a volunteer program to assist with and augment the services of the activity program.

§72383. Activity Program-Activity Plan

(a) An activity plan shall:

(1) Be developed and implemented for each patient and shall be integrated with the individual interdisciplinary patient care plan.

(2) Be reviewed quarterly and approved, in writing, by the attending physician as not in conflict with the treatment plan.

§72385. Activity Program-Staff

(a) Activity program personnel with appropriate training and experience shall be available to meet the needs and interests of patients.

(b) An activity program leader shall be designated by and be responsible to the administration. An activity program leader shall meet one of the following requirements:

(1) Have two years of experience in a social or recreational program within the past five years, one year of which was full-time in a patient activities program in a health care setting.


(2) Be an occupational therapist, art therapist, music therapist, dance therapist, recreation therapist or occupational therapy assistant.

(3) Have satisfactorily completed at least 36 hours of training in a course designed specifically for this position and approved by the Department and shall receive regular consultation from an occupational therapist, occupational therapy assistant or recreation therapist who has at least one year of experience in a health care setting.

§72387. Activity Program-Equipment and Supplies

Each facility shall provide equipment and supplies for both independent and group activities and for patients having special needs.

§72389. Activity Program-Space

(a) Each facility shall provide a designated activity area which meets the independent and group activity needs of patients.
      Such areas shall be:

(1) Accessible to wheelchair and ambulatory patients.

(2) Of sufficient size to accommodate necessary equipment and permit unobstructed movement of wheelchair and ambulatory patients or personnel responsible for instruction and supervision.

(b) Storage space for equipment and supplies shall be provided and shall be maintained in a clean and orderly manner.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a nursing home or other care facility, contact the Law Office of David M. Jamieson for a consultation (209) 521-1269.