Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another Activity Director Website

Check this website out when you get a chance. I think you will like it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wii Therapy and Rehabilitation

Has your facility invested in the Nintendo Wii yet? If you have, please add comments to this post to let others know what is happening with your residents since the Wii was added to their daily lives, whether it be through the activity department or physical therapy department.

I am not a big fan of video games that get the kids all caught up on activity that makes them do no more than sit on the floor or couch and push a few buttons for hours at a time. But when the Wii came out and I first started seeing commercials about it, I thought that it is about time that the video game manufacturers got kids up and moving again. What I did not expect or even think about was the potential use for nursing homes, assisted living centers, senior centers, and other facilities dealing with health issues. It has only been in the past few weeks that I have even seen anything on the subject. Obviously, judging by the links I have posted for you tonight, I am behind the times!

The links I have added for you are only the first of many many links I have found just by typing in "wii therapy" in the search box. If you would like to have the Nintendo Wii at your facility and are still having trouble convincing the powers that be of what a great investment it would be, take them this list. Better yet, print out the information and take that to them. If the budget is the problem, maybe this is one of those things that a fundraiser might be in order. From what I have seen so far, it looks like it is a very worthwhile investment.


Monday, March 24, 2008

What Is A Long Term Care Activity Director Anyway??

All I have for you today is a video clip. I think it says a lot.

Check this one out too. It is really nice, but would not allow the script to be embeded.

Who says we can't dance?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Movie and Popcorn Anyone?

Movies and Popcorn activities were one of the most popular activities in some of the facilities I worked at. Then there were the other facilities where this activity was just like any other. What made the difference? The popcorn and how it was made. Isn't that amazing? Not really.
The facilities where this was most popular had the popcorn making machine where people could watch the popcorn being made. Those that did not have the popcorn machine were not that excited about the movie either.
When I worked in facilities with the popcorn machine, residents who said they did not want to come to the movie still came out of their rooms just to come watch the popcorn pop. Others, smelling the popcorn from their rooms, asked if they could have some brought to them. So, what about the movie? Combining a good movie with a bag of popcorn worked well with a little timing. Movies generally last about an hour and a half...a long activity to expect people to sit through. So what we usually did was get the movie started, then after about half an hour we would get the popcorn popping. We always had extra chairs set up for latecomers who came out just for the popcorn. Some chairs were also placed where people could just watch the machine and talk to each other. The popcorn machine was placed, obviously, a bit away from where the movie was playing so the noise and chatter would not interfere with the residents viewing pleasure. So, this one activity became two activities. Or maybe that would be three if you count the room visits that came out of delivering the fresh popped corn right to their rooms. Oh, and one time, my movie and popcorn activity had an added activity when the machine was placed too near the smoke detector! Never did that again! There wasn't really any smoke, but what did come from the machine made a noisy impact on the day!

But what happened in those facilities that did not have the popcorn machine? And what about the facilities that wouldn't even allow for the real popcorn for fear of residents choking? We would get just a few residents to come out and watch the movie, and they would soon be asleep in their chairs after only a short time. I had one facility where I just could not convince anyone of the value of buying even a small popcorn machine for the residents. They were happy with using microwave popcorn. If only I could have had one on loan for a day and invite everyone in for a visit to see just what would happen.

Do you work in a facility where they don't see the value? Here are just some of the benefits you can mention the next time you bring up the idea.

  • Increased attendance to the Movie, or whatever other activity you want to have popcorn involved.
  • A secondary activity in the area of the popcorn machine while residents watch and socialize.
  • A room visit activity that makes popcorn the topic of discussion.
  • An increase in visitors when they know popcorn is on the calendar.
  • A fund raiser as you can charge visitors (never charge the residents) and facility staff for each bag of popcorn they want...always make extra. Always include the popcorn machine in other activities that are fundraisers, such as carnivals.
  • Increased morale in the staff on popcorn day. (Happy staff=happy residents.)

I am sure there are other benefits you can think of. Of course you can always buy extra deli popcorn (the puffed kind without kernals) for those who have a risk of choking. One facility I visited made both regular and caramel corn. What an idea!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spring is Coming

It's that time of the year to be thinking ahead to all the spring and summer outings and outdoor activities for your residents. This can be exciting, especially if you and your residents have that cooped up cabin fever type feeling and can't wait to get outside. Even taking a nice drive around the countryside--if you are anywhere near countryside, that is--can be really enjoyable and lift spirits. Those days when the sun is shining, and if your facility allows for activity changes, scrub those indoor afternoon activities and take the residents for a ride. Are you stuck in the city? Drive past a few gas stations. That should get your residents talking! That can spark a conversation about how prices on everything has changed since they were young. Drive through the lanes at a local shopping mall to see what kinds of stores there are. Start up a conversation about how limited shopping was in their day versus what all is available today.
Just from seeing my own reaction to getting out on Monday and then again yesterday tells me we have all but shut up inside too long this winter. Spring might not be here just yet, but it is just around the corner.
What other spring activities are you thinking about for this year? Bird watching is a good possibility if you have some trees around. Do some of your residents have bird feeders outside their windows? What about on these days as the sun begins warming things up, taking your residents for a stroll outside to see if you can see any signs of robins...or crocus' popping their tiny heads out of the ground. What other signs of spring can you find? Ask your residents what they did to get ready for spring. Did they have vegetable gardens that needed worked up to get ready to plant? What kinds of flowers did they have around their homes? What did the men do when spring was approaching? Were they farmers? Were they laborers in the city?
Will your facility have an outside flower or vegetable garden that the residents can participate with the gardening? Whether it is a wheelchair garden outside, big clay pots outside, hanging baskets of flowers, or simple flower pots inside, it is time to go get some seeds. If you haven't done it already, how about setting up a "garden committee" of residents to plan what they want to see planted this year. Then, either go pick up the seeds yourself, or have an outing where some of the residents can go along to help. You might need potting soil, flower pots, hanging baskets, gardening hand tools, and other items on the list. This is a sure way to bring a little springtime indoors while you wait to get outdoors.
Now it's your turn. What ideas would you like to share for the spring? Do you have special parties planned? Special springtime entertainment? How about your regular sing along? Do you or your residents know any springtime songs they can sing? Spring is a wonderful time for trivia and reminiscing activities. What kinds of topics do your residents enjoy talking about?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Scrapbooking For Seniors

Along with reminiscing activities and other activities that get seniors talking about their lives, this is the perfect time to get them interested in scrapbooking. Not only is this an idea that they can work on to have something special to do, it can also be something they can do with their family. This activity can be something that is an ongoing project that they work on in their own time by themselves, or when their friends and family are visiting. Each person visiting can contribute something to the scrapbook. Grandchildren can be especially helpful and encouraging when it comes to putting the scrapbook pages together.

Finding ways to fund the supplies can be a challenge, and we will discuss fund raising activities in the near future.

One possible way to kick this activity off is to have the big event first meeting. This activity would be best pulled off if done by invitation to family members to come and join, and to bring some ideas with them. Serve refreshments, maybe even have someone who scrapbooks well come and do a short demonstration. Provide basic initial materials so residents can get started.

One way to keep material costs down is to have the basic cutters, trimmers, and other equipment kept in the activity room rather than having each resident be able to own their own. Leave that up to family members if they wish to have their loved one have their own equipment. Make sure there is a place where residents can come and work on their scrapbooks at their leisure, but with some supervision as needed.

Once or twice a month have a follow up activity where everyone brings their scrapbooks to show and tell what they have done up to that point. During this activity, residents can share ideas just like any other scrapbooking group does. When a scrapbook is completed, make sure the resident is recognized for finishing it and offer them the chance to start another one if they would like to.

This is a good activity to keep residents motivated and participating. It is also something that can encourage intergenerational contact.

Reminiscing Questions: SNOW

Below are some questions you may use anytime you want to for your winter reminiscing activities. When you are doing these, and other reminiscing activities, think about tape recording the responses and adding these to a continuing taped journal for each resident that can be saved and passed on to family members when it is completed...with the resident's permission, of course.

What is your earliest childhood memory about snow?

How did snow effect your regular routine?

How did you bundle up to go out to play in the snow? How has that changed over the years?

What kinds of snow games did you play when you were a child?

How did you get to and from school? From work?

What songs do you remember that were about snow?

Did you ever make paper snowflakes in school?

Did you have a sled? If so, where did you get it and what was it like?

Have you ever ridden in a horse-drawn sleigh?

How was your home heated in the winter?

Do you remember any stories your parents or grandparents told you about winters when they were young?

Do you remember any big blizzards when you were young? What happened?

Describe some scenes from the deepest snow you can remember.

Describe some of the snowmen you have built when you were a child.

Do you have any other interesting stories about snow or winter when you were young?

Do you remember taking your children outside to play in the snow when they were young?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Intergenerational Activities

Just saw something in another blog about gardening with kids. So, how about combining your spring gardening activities this year with intergenerational activities and bringing in the kids! Indoor or outdoor gardening...both the kids and the adults will get something out of this activity where the oldsters can share their knowledge and the youngsters can share their energy. Even if the plants don't grow, new relationships will. Have fun!

Cameras To Go

I just bought my first digital camera today. It got me thinking as I was about to do this post. If I were still working as an Activity Director, what kinds of activities would I be able to come up with that have to do with cameras or photography? What about handing out disposable cameras to various residents for a few hours, or for a 24 hour period and seeing what kinds of pictures they come up with? The results could be put on display somewhere in the facility and used as a photography show for residents, family, and other visitors. Would this be an issue with HIPAA? The last place I worked wouldn't allow the activity staff to take pictures or use pictures of residents in any way, just to be on the safe side. Anyway, if your facility will allow it, and your budget will allow it, this could be an interesting activity that lasts for more than just a half hour or hour.
Have any of you tried anything like this? What were the results? What did you do with the pictures when you got them back?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Indoor Snowmen

Too cold to go outside to make snowmen? Maybe your people think snowman making is for kids. Then again, maybe you can show them it's for them too.

Here is an idea from one of the facilities I worked at. I wasn't there at the time they did this, but I was told about it and it sounded like loads of fun. Maybe some of you have done this at your facilities. If you have, be sure to share your experiences with the rest of us.

What you have to do first is to assemble all the items you will need for this activity because once it gets started, time is going to be precious. You will need:

doll hats
doll hair
doll jewelry
doll clothing accessories
fake eyes,
fake lips
little stones
little broomsticks like the ones you find in harvest decorations
and just about anything else you can think of in miniature
flat lunch trays--enough for each resident
wash basins--enough for each resident
gloves or mittens--enough for each resident

Once you have assembled the supplies and the residents, put on a little wintertime music while you go outside and fill up the wash basins with snow and bring it in for each resident to begin building their own snowman. They will build their snowmen on their lunch tray so everything else stays dry. After they build their snowmen, it is time to decorate them. Of course they can decorate in any way they want to. Be sure to take photos of each resident with their snowman when it is finished. You could even have a contest judged by the other residents and/or staff when they are all done. Hang pictures on the bulletin boards, or at their doorways, or whereever when the activity is finished.

Maybe you will still have a chance to do this before this winter is over. If not, keep the idea for next winter.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Put That On Your Calendars

One of my favorite parts of my job as an Activity Director was making my monthly calendar. I enjoyed thinking of new and different activities to sprinkle among the regulars. You know, we have to keep Bingo, right? I liked finding out about those special and often silly "holidays" of the day, or week, even. My favorite? Of course it has to be National Chocolate Lover's Day. Anything having to do with chocolate is going to be in my favorites list.
What computer program do you use, if you use one, to create your calendars? I prefer the calendar part of the Print Master series of desktop publishing programs. I like the ease with which you can drag one day's schedule to another day for however many times you need to do so without retyping. So, if your bingo day is also your day for exercise and church services, you can type it in just once, and drag it to the other bingo days the rest of the month. You have room to add clipart to the calendar in just about any location you wish including on each individual day if you want to. You can also make your calendar in portrait or landscape modes. Print Master is a very user-friendly program for all sorts of desktop publishing tasks you might have for your job, including making banners and flyers for special events. Adding textboxes and clipart is as simple as a click and resizing is just as simple. Printmaster is from Broderbund.
I have also used Calendar Creator Plus, which is also a good program. With Calendar Creator Plus, there is a little more work needed to make specific activities to reprint each time they need to so you don't have to constantly retype them. The problem with Calendar Creator Plus when I used it was that it would not always hold what I needed to put inside one block so it would not print. Also it was often difficult to get the calendar template size to work so that it would print without cutting the side off. I admit it has been several years since I have used this program so I don't know if they have improved those areas or not. Calendar Creator also allows for clipart as well as other interesting tidbits of information you might want to put on your calendar. I did like that part of the program. I also liked being able to type an activity in once, set time schedules for it and not have to type it in again for a few months in a row if it was a repeating activity. Calendar Creator did not have other desktop publishing functions with it.
So, there you have it. My take on what I have actually used to create my calendars on the computer.
Before I ever got to putting my calendar on the computer to be printed out, I worked it out in rough draft form on a specially created spreadsheet with up to 7 cells in each daily block, and at least 5 full weeks of blocks. I also color coded it by marking all the regularly scheduled activities such as bingo in one color, special events such as holidays and parties, in another color. Then I used pencil for all the blank areas I needed to fill in until I had them set. Once it was complete I would put it in the computer.
Many AD's use the calendars in the publications we are always receiving or order. I never did get into using them because I liked having the separated lines of the spreadsheets.

What kinds of calendars system do you have for your main bulletin boards? I have used several, and seen many others that I would have liked to try. I have seen the wipe off boards, and the preprinted blank calendars that you can order. Personally I never liked those because I didn't like the handwriting on the ones I saw. When I did have to use them, I was very particular about how the handwriting came out. I wanted it, first of all, large enough and clean enough for the residents to be able to read. I am a perfectionist about many things and that was one of them. I was always having to start all over and throw away sheets that I had messed up. That gets expensive because those sheets are not cheap. My very favorite bulletin board calendar was in the first place I worked as an AD. It was HUGE! In fact, it was so big, I could use one full sheet of paper for each and every day of the month, staple those pages to the bulletin board in calendar shape, landscape style, and also be able to use paper that had pretty and appropriate for the month background. That means, I could use a snowy style paper for January, hearts and flowers for February, etc. As long as the paper did not make reading the calendar difficult, just about anything worked. Then the border around the completed calendar was decorated accordingly. Over the years I have managed to use the computer to resize those daily blocks so that I could use the same system for most smaller bulletin boards, although I often found preprinted paper difficult to use when cut into quarters, for instance. For those months, I simply used the clipart features of Print Master to decorate the calendar blocks.
Whatever system you choose to use, the most important thing is that the residents, family members, other visitors, and staff can read it to know what is going on and when.
Now it's your turn. Post your comments and share your calendar styles with the rest of us.

The AD office

Doesn't it seem like your desk is covered with supply catalogs? They are in your desk drawers, on the filing cabinet, on shelves...anywhere you can stick them. Oh come on, don't tell us your office, if you are lucky enough to have an office, is clean and well organized. Every place I worked everyone else in the facility seemed to think my "office" was the place to put everything that didn't have someplace else for it to go. If someone didn't know what it was, whose it was, or where it might belong, it went to my desk. I could come in to work in the mornings and find a desk piled high with things that were not there when I left the day before.
But, supply catalogs--ya gotta love em. What would we ever do without them? How can we bare to part with them? Some come once a year, some every 3 or 4 months with the season changes. What were your favorites? Mine were always the S&S Crafts, and Oriental Trading. There were always things in those catalogs that, if nothing else, would give me good ideas for things to do in either a craft activity or some other type of activity. Everytime I would take a new job, I would eventually have to work at cleaning out the files and get rid of all the stuff that was no longer current, including back issues of these beloved catalogs. Finally, just to try to keep a handle on my own pile, I would go through all the catalogs everytime I got a new one, no matter what kind it was. If it was one that came out once a year, the old one got tossed and replaced by the new one. If it came out more often with seasonal changes, I kept one year's worth, then started pitching them. That at least kept my stack under a little bit of control.
Okay, another item that always seems to turn up somehow over night. Flower vases! If you are lucky and have a good area for storing all your supplies, this isn't too hard to deal with. If not, you could have a problem until the next bunch of flowers arrives for you to take to residents' rooms. Either way, they can't stay on your desk very long and you still get your documentation done.
One place I worked, there was a funny story about how they handled their fire drills. The routine was to secretly place a red flag somewhere within the building and whoever finds it has to initiate the firedrill. Well, this particular day, the person in charge decided to put the flag on the Activity Director's desk...that was in the morning. It wasn't until later in the afternoon when she was cleaning her desk off that she actually found the flag! From the first time I heard that story, I always checked each day to see if they might pull that one on me.
I am an organizer. If...and that is a BIG IF...I have the space available to organize the way I want to, life goes much smoother. But most of the time, I have issues with finding places to keep things that are needed. On the job, this can be a real challenge because we have to be able to put away such awkwardly shaped objects of all sizes from the smallest package of balloons, to the largest kickball and all kinds of other things. My last job I had the best office/activity room I had ever had. The room was shaped in an odd shape, but one end was all cabinets, with loads of counter space and wall cabinets above, including a sink. The other end for awhile held big bookcases full of books which provided the residents with an in-house library. We had two desks, and two big long tables, one holding a constant jigsaw puzzle. This was also the largest facility I had ever worked in. Until someone not doing a great deal of thinking of what was best for the residents came along and convinced management to get rid of all the books and the shelves to make more room in the activity room, it was an often used service. If the residents could, they came to the room to pick out books. If not, we took them books. Other than that, however, that activity room/office was the best supplied I had ever worked in.

Now it is your turn. Post your comments here about what kinds of offices you have had over the years. What was the best? The worst? Could you keep it clean and uncluttered? Do you have organizational ideas to help someone else organize their office and/or activity room?

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Are you an Activity Director in the medical field? This is the place for you to come and share ideas with each other. This is the place to come and get hints and tips for making the fun parts of your job more fun, and maybe for making those necessary not-so-fun parts more tolerable. Grab your favorite beverage, pull up a chair, put your feet up and relax awhile. Do comment on posts here. Do include your own ideas as you think of them. We will cover all areas of the job including the usual things like the calendar, facility newsletters, volunteers, dealing with family members, dealing with management, state surveys, documentation, certification, classes and seminars, and anything else you can think of that has to do with being a happy and successful Activity Director wherever you work.
In this blog we will talk about old and new craft ideas, which companies are the best for ordering supplies, how to motivate residents to participate, ways to perk up your calendar of events, and much more. We can talk about how to keep ourselves from burning out. When I took my class, the instructor said normal burnout rate was about every 2 years for the average Activity Director. Why does this happen in a job where we get paid to play? Well, isn't that what most people think we are doing? Yes we do play, but we work hard, and we have to know what we are doing so we don't get outside of the state and federal regulations. And we have to deal with the medical staff who see the residents from a totally different perspective than we do. We have to spend much time convincing them that these people can do much more than they are given credit for. And we often have to convince the residents of this as well. But the rewards are tremendous. The smiling faces of the residents and those of the family as well can make our day. So, let's talk it all over. This is the place to share your feelings and thoughts and opinions about all things having to do with being an Activity Director in the medical field.