Occupational Wellness & dementia – 4 tips to success

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Occupational Wellness & dementia – 4 tips to success

Posted on January 28, 2014

According to the University of California, Occupational Wellness is the ability to get personal fulfillment from our jobs or our chosen career fields while still maintaining balance in our lives. Our desire to contribute in our careers to make a positive impact on the organizations we work in and to society as a whole leads to Occupational Wellness.

This core aspect of one’s self is one of the best ways to get a resident interested because it is usually one of the most important things in one’s life and in which many memories are created.

When residents get to the supportive living environment, they have suffered many losses, including their career and often a sense of meaning. Losing one’s sense of purpose and not feeling needed anymore is a common source of depression, social isolation and many other traumas that lead to a decline in functioning level.

From the staff’s perspective, the occupational dimension of wellness is a very powerful tool, as people will remember basic movements, images or sounds even far down the path of dementia. However, it is also challenging as the staff needs to learn about specific professions and careers. It takes resources to create engaging activities for each occupation and finding information can sometimes be very difficult.

A recent study, has shown that this dimension remains an unmet need in dementia care. To increase residents engagement, stronger occupational based programming is indispensable.

Activity through a resident’s occupation is usually successful because it has meaning to them. Occupational activities are also positive because they ensure an elder will feel as though they are an integral part of something that they are good at. This eliminates the stress and negativity of activities that may be difficult or not enjoyable for them.

This study further suggests that it is possible to engage residents in wellbeing-enhancing occupation, within current means of budget and staff. The physical environment and care organization might play a role, but the key factor seems to be to equip the staff with skills to integrate wellbeing-enhancing occupation into care practice. Programs such as reminiscence, leisure, expression, and vocational occupation have the greatest potential to enhance wellbeing. Much variation existed in the extent to which wellbeing-enhancing occupation was provided.
Here are four tips in bringing occupational wellness to activities:

  1. Review assessments and individualized service plans to include a broader reach of occupational related information:The “getting to know you” questionnaires and other tools often have only one field for this topic, yet new residents coming in have often had more than one job or career. Enhancements could give more space for multiple careers and ask for successes & failures and more details.
  2. Prepare toolboxes that can be used with more than one resident or in groups for discussion: When researching and preparing for programs, make sure your work can be reused, shared with other staff members or with other residents to save time and resources.
  3. Peer sharing and discussions are strong foundations for occupational wellness programming: Make sure you frequently group residents based on the type of career they had while taking into account their cognitive level. It will save time, make your programming strategy more efficient and bring meaningful experiences to the residents. To ensure success, you could prepare ice breaker questions related to each profession.
  4. Document performance: Programming is only as good as its reporting. Make sure to document and take notes of successful activities and how the residents performed. This will help you to fine-tune and adapt as your population evolves.