This is a wonderful sensory activity that can reduce anxiety, provide reassurance and a sense of comfort.
This is one of many free activities.
Golden Carers has 1000s of activities and resources for senior care.

This is a wonderful sensory activity that can reduce anxiety, provide reassurance and a sense of comfort.

Ensure you consult with your manager before commencing and always follow the health and safety policies where you work.


  • Make residents feel special
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Keep hands and nails clean


Gather a group of residents (4 or 5) and seat them around a table for a chat while waiting for their turn.

  1. Wash hands in scented water.
  2. Lightly massage with essential oil mixture or hand cream. For information on how to blend essential oils into hand cream, read Getting Started with Aromatherapy.
  3. File nails. Women may wish to have nails colored, in which case involve them in the choice of colour.

Save time with 1000's of meaningful
activity ideas for every occasion.

Enter your email address to collect your free activities.

✓ 100% Privacy ✓ No Spam

Comments   Post a Comment

Susan 16th Feb 2021 Activity Director
Hi Noeline
Thank you for sharing this information
Noeline 16th Feb 2021
I work with Aboriginal Elders/aged people and the ladies and the men both love to have hand, feed and head massages
On the day we also have foot spars and add some bubbles were there is lost of laughs and lots of bubbles - each foot spar is cleaned before used by the next person - also they have their finger nails cut and filed and the ladies have theirs polished in the colour of their choose
ANKUR 19th Nov 2020 Activities Coordinator
We held a spa day yesterday where we gace shoulder massages , hand massages and nails if they wished, we sometimes add a foot massage and toenails in summer. We create atmosphere with candles, diffusers and spa images and music on the tv screen from youtube - they absolutely loved it as we all sit in a circle and chat away throughout the afternoon
Sue 19th Nov 2020
Thursdays is my pampering day manicures hair and massages. The residents love it and I’m always booked up squeezing an extra one in here and there. It’s good to have a little one to one pampering
Pamper days are not just for women. Men love to "hold hands and chat" and have their nails filed and creams with sandlewood massaged into their hands and face.
Always use disposable files. I wear a full apron(disposable) for them to lean back while I give a facial cleanse, clean & massage. I also have a session of look good feel great where the ladies have their "mini facial" and then some makeup. I schedule these before in house concerts or outings so we add a splash of perfume, their beads or scarf and they feel dressed up and special. Try to use the same lotion as the perfume to make the aroma last.
Restvale 19th Nov 2020 lifestyle & volunteer coordinator
Hi we are in South Australia and do a 'Pamper Day' every 6/8 weeks. Our residents love this day. We use essential olds in a diffuser, have hand spa's, massages, cutting and polishing nails and foot spa's with flowers and marbles for them to roll their feet on. We also use a 'princess' chair where we can lay back a resident and do a facial and cucumber on the eyes! We play soft music and close the curtains. We do it as a group activity and the carer bring resident up when they are ready and they take it in turns to have the various things done. They love to chat; even the dementia about other times when they have had this done in their lives; weddings. For you Carol what we have done is do the nail cutting first, then the hand massage, leave it for a few minutes for the resident to enjoy the feeling and then use an alcohol wipe to give a good wipe over the nail bed. Leave it to dry then apply the polish. Seems to work well. Some people have their nails/massage done in the morning and come back in the afternoon for the polish.
Amy 19th Nov 2020 Supportive Service Coordinator
Great idea and strategies for a spa day. In my rural region of Pennsylvania, we are still under covid precautions due to high numbers, so this will wait until we have a vaccine. Currently, we are maintaining 6 feet distancing. And have no physical contact.

Spa days are a great idea.
I agree you need protocols for cleaning the tools after each us, the best practice is an individual nail care bag for each resident. But if you cant do that due to large numbers, we found having a checklist we sign after each group spa helps us maintain hygiene standards and avoid cross contamination.

I know at our building, we will be re-structuring and adding in hygiene precautions for activities, after covid is resolved. Its made us think through how we normally do activities. I am looking forward to when my community can have spa days again.
Rachelle 19th Oct 2019
Thank you ALL for the fabulous ideas, this is the beginning of my NEW career. I have tried the Spa Day activity with my residence and they love it. I do believe each resident should have their own supplies. We too cannot trim nails, but filing is acceptable. Thank you again for allowing me to join your group!
Talita 20th Oct 2019
Thank you so much for your feedback Rachelle, good luck with your new career, I hope you LOVE it!
Kathleen 25th Nov 2018 Activity Assistant
Activity professionals in Maryland are not allowed to trim a resident's nails. However, we can use a file on them. Also, when I took MEPAP I was taught to keep individual nail supplies for each resident. This is not practiced where I currently work. The nail instruments do not get cleaned. The same files and polish are used on the hands of many residents.
Solange 25th Nov 2018 Diversional Therapist
Hi Kathleen, you are quite right, it is my experience too that only podiatrists were allowed to cut nails. We could file, exfoliate and moisturize but each resident had their own supplies in their rooms. It doesn't seem right to use the same instruments in a group of people without sterilization. Perhaps you should consider mentioning it in a meeting?
Kathryn 10th Jul 2018 Vocational Instructor
Awesome ideas ! I’m just getting started with nails and beauty day
Talita 15th Jul 2018
Love to hear how it goes Kathryn!
Kim 15th Feb 2018 Community Services Manager
On many occasions I've used hand massage and nail therapy as a diversional tactic to reduce anxiety and stress in our high dementia members. The one on one interaction is reassuring. 99%, find the experience quite uplifting, even some of our Gentlemen.
Talita 15th Jul 2018
This is a great reminder Kim, thanks so much for your comments.
Lalaine 25th Apr 2017 Life Style Officer
It's feeling good for resident when they have both treatments but it takes time especially while doing this you are interacting with resident, they feel so special and confidence and non stop laughing.
Jacqui 14th Jan 2017 Diversional Therapist
I always use nail polish remover after doing a hand massage if I'm going to be painting nails to remove any hand lotion from fingernails or the polish wont stay on. I think its great to be done on a regular basis nothing worse then scruffy nail polish.
Michelle 14th Jun 2015 RAO
When doing a manicure/sensory activity where lotion is applied to the hands before the manicure, to avoid the nail polish from sliding off the nail,wipe the nail surface only with nail polish remover prior to applying polish/base coat..
Maria 7th Sep 2014
My clients are high care & with dementia and don't seem to take interest in doll therapy as a group. But on one:one they get involve for a short time caressing and go on humming the sing-a-long. I bath the doll in a baby bath, have all set, face washer, towel, baby soap, baby powder, clothes ready...allowing them to touch the water temperature...they don't show interest and some criticised. there's another way more excited to do it? Maria J
jasbir 17th Jul 2014 lifestyle assistant
I am doing this hand and nail massage in my facility every week and its really helps to make people happy.
Joanne 10th Oct 2012 Leisure and Lifestyle Co ordinator
I've actually combined this with a ladies the facial first and then a hand well. We usually have a nutrimetics lady giving us her time and goods and also two staff members. Sometimes we've just had a nail day where all of the activity staff (3) do the nails.
Kymberly 26th Mar 2017 Activities Coordinator
Its a lovely idea - are there H&S issues involved here, with doing massage, as well as hygiene? It would be nice to introduce with mother's day coming up
Clarissa 11th Nov 2011 Recreational Activities Officer
I do nails twice a week. I have seperate snap lock bags with files and clippers, I have a 4 shelf plastic display, showing off all of the colours. I provide hand massages prior. The trick is do a nice hand massage AFTER the clipping/filing, then get your cotton ball and wipe off the nail with nail polish remover and then apply the paint.
Solange 5th Mar 2011 Diversional Therapist
Yes, Stephanie, some facilities are quite strict about it. In our facility we also have a pamper session and we use an aroma therapy mixture made in-house by an Aroma Therapist. It is rather nice. Staff must use rubber gloves to apply it.
Stephanie 2nd Mar 2011 Diversional Therapist
We have a once a month pamper session that the residents all enjoy. However residents provide their own nail kits and creams as it can become an infection control issue. Sign of the times I guess.
tyrone 19th Oct 2010 lifestyle assistant
the way i do hand and nail care is i have a tapestry make up case and do ti about once a fortnight in the afternoons i trim file and paint the nails or trim file and hand massage letting the ladies choose when i started doing this not many were interested now as soon as the ladies see the make up case i will be doing one lady and end up with a line of ladies waiting so i think that this is definatly working
Solange 8th Oct 2010 Diversional Therapist
Hi Amanda, you are quite right. The best attention is the one on one attention, however in Nursing Homes it is hard to find the time to do it to every person.Where I work every resident has a 'special day' a month when staff can pamper that resident for a day. It works quite well.
Amanda 7th Oct 2010 Diversional Therapist
I work in a Rehab facility so I implement this activity slightly different, instead of a small group I actually use it as a one on one activity. I will do a hand soak, then will trim, file and paint the nails and follow up with a massage last. So far all nail polish has stayed put!
Solange 4th Jul 2009 Diversional Therapist
I agree with you Carol, one thing at a time is better. I only do both if the resident is keen.
Carol 4th Jul 2009 Diversional Therapist
I discovered that hand massage and nail painting in the same session doesn't work well. The nail polish literally slid off the nails overnight. It seems a shame to give a lovely hand massage and then wipe it completely dry before applying polish. Now I do either/or and the residents are not disappointed.
Kymberly 24th Jul 2018 Activities Coordinator
How have you separated hand massage and nail painting carol?
Restvale 19th Nov 2020 lifestyle & volunteer coordinator
See my reply Carol.
No Avatar