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Recreational Activities

by S.H.Evans, AD

Perhaps no other department in the nursing care facility receives more inquiries of definition than the Activities Department. Family members and visitors touring a home will often ask, "What are activities?"; "What kinds of things do you do?"; "What can you do for my family member, when he only wants to sit in his room and look out the window?" These are valid questions and professional Activity Directors are glad to answer.

It is generally accepted that "Activities" in a long term care setting, applies to anything that a resident does during the course of the day that is not part of his/her nursing care or ADL's (Activities of Daily Living - bathing, grooming, dressing, etc.).

An Activity program is more than Bingo, arts and crafts, a sing-a-long, an exercise group, a movie, an afternoon of professional entertainment, or a birthday party celebration. It is an opportunity to socialize over a cup of coffee, a chance to engage in physical and mental stimulation, it provides for creative use of time, it can open doors to leisure educational groups, and it offers opportunities to use old skills and learn new ones.

Why are Activities so important?

Activities gives a new refreshing meaning to life, and stays off the "rustiness" that many equate with the long term care resident.

Activities make a person more alert. Absence of activity can lead to physical and mental deterioration.

Activities provide opportunity - for socialization, stimulation, the creation of friendships, and the increase of self esteem. The will to live is often strengthened and confidence in himself is restored.

Activities are important to good health. Physical exercise stimulates the flow of oxygen thus aiding the thought process. The brain according to some researchers loses so many cells that by age 75 it is only slightly over 50% of its original size. Blood circulation and mental stimulation of the brain helps it to function better at any age. The great artist, inventor, Leonardo da Vinci said, "Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, even so does inaction sap the rigors of the mind."

Activities provide therapy, such as art, creative writing, music, poetry or pet therapy.

Activities encourage choices. The opportunity to decide whether or not to attend a program, an outing; to voice their own opinions at discussion groups; to vote on issues at Residents Council; to choose colors, paints, tools, fabrics, etc. at an arts & crafts group.

Activities suitably challenge the individual.

The mission of the Activities Department is to provide residents with a broad scope of recreational and leisure experiences that reflect interests and life-time habits. These activities reach the bedbound, cognitively impaired, functionally dependent residents as well as those who function independently. In doing so we help them to make use of their full leisure potential. In keeping with federal regulations long term nursing facilities are required to provide for an ongoing program of activities designed to meet, in accordance with the comprehensive assessment, the interests and the physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident.

Within a designated time period after admission, the Activities Director meets with the resident to establish among other things, the person's preferred daily activities such as: hobbies; music; games; religious activities; needlework; reading; exercise; television and radio interests; arts and crafts; outdoor and indoor sports; or gardening. Does he/she like small or large group of social interaction; have they during their lifetime, preferred tranquil self directed activities or to sit quietly in a common area and "watch the world go by?"

The Activities Department is an integral part of the interdisciplinary team of the facility which includes persons representing the disciplines involved in the development of the resident's care plan, such as Nursing, Social Services, Dietary, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. The care plan devised by the Activity Director must reflect each individual resident's recreational needs or problem; a goal (short term or long term); and an approach to reach that goal. Daily documentation is a must in order to adequately follow a resident's progress on achieving their goals.

Residents who are unable or unwilling to attend out of room activities are provided one-to-one programs in keeping with their lifelong interests by activity staff. Persons with visual deficits are linked up with "Talking Books" a program that supplies a recorder, and tapes of interest on a regular basis. We offer adaptive equipment, such as page magnifiers, large print books, or book stands. Residents who may benefit from sensory stimulation are included in small group settings where visual, tactile, and auditory aids are used. Residents who have Alzheimer's disease and have difficulty in group settings are often responsive to one on one interventions using soft, soothing music.

The Activity Department arranges for the residents to attend community outings on a regular basis, usually in a small group and transported in a wheel-chair accessible vehicle. The groups are well attended and monitored for the safety and well-being of the residents. Outings may include shopping trips, lunch at a favorite restaurant, picnics at a tranquil setting, museum tours, or a sight-seeing ride. Residents are also encouraged to take part in community affairs such as exercising their right to vote. Residents are kept abreast of local, state, national and world news through various means - their own absorption of the media, or in current events sessions.

The spiritual needs of residents are met through the visits of local clergy and services held regularly by churches of various faiths. Residents often request the Activity Director to contact his/her clergyman.

The Activity Director is usually responsible for the Residents' Council. a self-government body where the residents are free to voice their concerns, have them addressed and solved through departmental actions. The Activity Department also spearheads fund raising events such as bake sales or a bazaar, for the sole benefit of the Residents' Council.

The Activity Department is conducted by a qualified professional who meets the state and federal standards. The staff varies in number according to facility policies. It is not unusual for a total staff of two be responsible for supplying the recreational leisure needs of one hundred and twenty residents. Therefore, volunteers are treasured assets, and recruitment of interested, caring persons is ongoing. Many family members who assist find that the experience has given added support and encouragement to them, and has broadened their understanding of living in a nursing facility, and fostered an enhanced relationship between resident and family member.

The priority of the Activity Department is always the resident. Our goal is to promote and preserve a positive and healthy quality of life in the nursing care facility.

NAAP - National Association of Activities Professionals


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