Activity Directors are heroes

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Activity Directors are heroes

Posted on May 26, 2009

In the past 50 years, the senior care industry has been evolving from a medicalized institution to a place that people need and want to call their last home. In these environments, seniors crave to live as fully as possible while surrendering as least as possible of their previous life.
As demand and needs shift towards a less “institutionalized” life, huge challenges for the management of these facilities arises. The most common complaint comes from the lack of personalized and resident focused activities.
Activities in the senior care industry are organized by activity directors and their teams. Their job description usually entails the creation, management and reporting of a weekly agenda that needs to:

  • Be both intellectually and physically engaging
  • Takes care of gender by providing activities that suit males and females
  • Takes into account the age range and diversity of each residents
  • Be adapted to socially active and more “loners” types of residents
  • Suit different types of impairment such as vision & hearing loss but also dexterity or mental issues
  • Conform to care planning requirements by having “a systematic assessment and identification of a resident’s problems and strengths, the setting of goals, the establishment of interventions for accomplishing these goals.”

To deal with such pressure, activity directors across the country are being more and more creative. Ms Tonia Hooker, a consultant in activities and former activity director for more than 25 years has an extensive list of ideas that she sums up in a few words: “you have to be creative, listen to their needs and be ready to make a fool of yourself!”. She now teaches seminar on her methods and was at the last MACS event on May 21st 2009.
Another good example of innovation in activities comes from is the author of the Activity Director Blog who reports nice and engaging stories of how he takes care of his residents; a nice example is his blackjack story in which he describes his successful attempt at having a group of men playing blackjack and genuinely enjoying it!

In fact, activity directors are truly heroes of the senior care industry: they seem to be the ones suffering the most from this change in the industry: they have to juggle with huge staff turnover and extremely low budget, they also need to answer growing needs from residents and federal requirements. This is often done with inadequate means: as Ms Nancy Ewald from Activity Connection states it: “the industry is still carrying activities like it was 15 years ago, this needs to change”.