4 ways to provide residents with the “stuff” they miss

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4 ways to provide residents with the “stuff” they miss

Posted on October 26, 2010

Vicky Surash, VP of NVAAP, recently spoke about the role of activity professionals in a very interesting way. Taking on the skit of George Carlin on stuff, she applied it to the typical senior moving through the different steps of the continuing care process.

A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody’s got a little pile of stuff.

When a senior is brought into a retirement community, they need to let go of some of this stuff or, as the industry calls it: downsizing. Now, part of the role of communities is to support residents in the process. But it also becomes the responsibility of the staff to provide activities that fill the void left by the lack of stuff. This is where activity professionals come in and with budgets as low as 8 cents, 83 cents, or, if you’re lucky, $1.50 per resident per month, this can be challenging. Here are a few guidelines that will help you to be both successful and efficient in doing so:

  • Learn about your residents. Ask them questions about their previous home and where they lived. Try to help them adjust and provide them with things that are important to them and that they miss. Sometimes, just a flower in their room will help!
  • Question them about their lifestyle. Finding out more about residents will help you with care planning and give you ideas of future activities or themes. For example, a resident that watched TV everyday at 6:15pm might love to continue this type of ritual.
  • Find similarities between residents and use that to leverage and form groups. A good example of this is “home improvement” projects with residents and volunteers. Objectives could be: Let’s bring your house to your room. Ask your residents what they would like and work with them to provide that which will make them most at home. Example: yarn for knitting or crocheting, create decoration items and so forth…
  • Validating their needs. The Validation Method(tm) teaches us to avoid re-comforting but to help residents express their source of anxiety. They may miss things from their previous house and helping them talk about it, recognizing and validating their sorrow can help them move along quicker!

Filling the void from the missing stuff is probably one of the toughest pieces of the activity professionals’ job, and often is not on the job description. Communication and learning about your residents is the best way to help them make themselves at home – their home!