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Renewed resident activities

July 5, 2011
by Kathleen Mears
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A couple of weeks ago I heard some staff members talk about working at a hospital. They said there they would be assured an "outcome" for their work.

I ended up asking one staff member why people felt that way about working in a hospital. She said some employees are frustrated because they would like to see more activities available for residents here at the nursing home, particularly those with the worst behaviors.

Residents with behaviors can be difficult to deal with when there is little for them to do but eat and sleep. I think the nurses and aides feel they only maintain the residents. They do not get to see them expand their world. There are activities, but they are rather limited. This facility, like my last, has few resources for them except salaries for two staff members. Nothing is really set aside for special equipment or events.

The residents here would benefit from an exercise room. A much used, castoff punching bag would certainly help some residents get rid of frustration. A worn exercise bicycle would strengthen those who can manipulate a wheelchair. A treadmill sitting unused in someone's basement could assist those who can walk to not to feel so cooped up in the home. And an art room would help residents utilize their creativity. Even people with no artistic talent could experiment with watercolors on paper or finger painting.

Since funding is not available to hire activity therapists, we could reach out to retired or unemployed folks who might be eager to share their skills. It may take baby steps to get volunteers involved in this facility, however. Behavior facilities do acquire a stigma, but I think as volunteers get involved with the residents, they would enjoy working with them on a regular basis.

Residents could look forward to a day with more things available to do. Even residents with severe behaviors would relish going to a different part of the building to spend their time. Some listen to music or watch TV. But most search for something to do to keep busy. And then they look to food and sugary drinks to make them feel better.

Our new activity director is already instituting fund raising projects that will benefit the residents and the activities program. With the right outreach, they may get the surrounding community to donate some items. Even without a tax write-off for donated items, I feel looking for donors is worth a try.

In order to make things better for the residents, a plan needs to be developed. This nursing home's census stays high, so there will always be residents to care for. New activities would assist in rehabilitating residents who could then move to a less restrictive environment. A renewed activity program would assist those who remain to have a better and more engaged life.

There has to be a way to expand a program and acquire some necessary equipment without incurring a lot of expense. It will take some thinking and some diligence. But it would be worth it to give the residents a more interesting life.

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Kathleen Mears

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Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...