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Katherine 16th Jan 2021 Activities Assistant
Hi all, I was hoping I could get some suggestions. I am new Activities Assistant in a Senior Living Center. My experience in "activities" comes from working with Adults with Developmental Disabilities, and working with Children. I knew my experiences could translate, as I am quick to making modifications and adaptations to activities. However, I am feeling overwhelmed. I don't really have an " Activities Team" to collaborate with. I work at an Assisted Living Facility on the Memory Care Unit. My Activities Director, is responsible for the Assisted Living floor, and I am responsible for the Memory Care Unit (which I should mention too has 30 adults) We have 2 per diem employees, one who covers for when I am out, and the other days he works, he helps on the AL level, once a week the other per diem person assists me for 2 hrs in the afternoon. The activities I do, translate well with the AL floor, however, they do not do so well on the Memory Care floor. Also, they are all at varying stages of dementia. I try to do a lot of individual activities, like puzzles, sorting, drawing, coloring, etc,. We play a variety of games that involve some type of movement, bean bag toss, beach ball volleyball, ladder ball, ring toss and such. I know they love using the parachute, but I don't have staff that can assist me with this activity, nor do I get a high turn out for activities. When I try to "facilitate" conversations, or attempt any type of "reminiscing" I get zero responses, (it get's so quiet you can hear a pin drop). I feel as though I am doing a disservice to my folks. I'm just at a loss, and any insight, suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Jo 16th Jan 2021
Hi it sounds like you have plenty of great ideas. I have found that working with dementia patients of different levels comes down to trial and error as some things work and others don't. You may find care staff are able to help advise on what sort of activities work and provide ideas as well. Dementia patients are often very quiet in groups so I tend to do a lot of the talking and also rely on the few residents who are still able to communicate easily.

As you get to know the residents and their likes, dislikes and interests the job will become easier. Golden Carers is a great site with loads of activities and support. I currently work with moderate and advanced dementia patients and have found the following to be useful depending on the level of dementia:

Dice game - first residents in round who get a total of 30 wins or a single round with the highest number is the winner/s
Balloon - This is a wonderful activity for advanced dementia for those who can still participate. I often say we will hit it 100 or 200 times and can only miss three times. It puts a smile on peoples faces and often they will count their numbers. We do it in lots of 5 or 10 hits per resident. This can be also be done with advanced dementia but I don't count
Music therapy - Find they music they liked when growing up - we did the birdie dance song sitting down the other day
Reading - Reading is one of the last skills to go in dementia so asking residents to read nursery rhymes or quotes is popular. I often put these in large print for reading and have a game where I cut quotes up and the residents match them up. Nursery rhymes can also be used for reminiscing as residents often remember reading them to their children.
Visual pictures - These are particularly useful for advanced dementia and reminiscing. A gardener may enjoy looking at flowers, calendars that show famous sights in the local area, native animals, fruit and vegetables. I like to use A5 pictures that are easier to see and ask my residents to name the pictures and if we get so many right there is a prize.
Hand massage and ice cream is always a winner in our advanced dementia unit.
We have lots of musical entertainers that help.
I love aquapainting (paint with water) as residents cannot fail and love seeing the pictures come through. These can be reused numerous times and are sold by S&S.
Throw different types of balls into a basket or have a group of residents rolling ball/s around table and trying to make sure it does not go off the table.
Knocking down plastic water cup towers with a small ball always put a smile on people's faces
Reminiscing can be hard but simple questions such as how did you get to school , what did your parents do, who taught you to drive in small groups or 1:1 can help.

Hope this helps and all the best in your new role!
Susan 17th Jan 2021 Activity Director
Wow Katherine
It sounds like you are trying very hard
But this population can be difficult
Oh I like to do music with this type of group
Music is good because it uses many parts of the brain
I do not sing well but I am sure some of your residents do
What age group are most of your residents in??
Here is an interesting game might want to try
Here is another one
After playing the game make sure you sing some of the songs or sing them after each one is guessed
This comment may help you also
I also like simple exerciseWhich can be combined with music
Make sure when you run any group that you include all the people that are there be excited about what you are doing
Also be enthusiastic and complementary to everyone
A lot of what you do is trial and error
Here are some ways to get reluctant residents to your activities
Let me know if you need more help

Susan 17th Jan 2021 Activity Director
Hi Jo
You have some great ideas also
Have you ever played a game called one
I explain that in this comment along with a game I call name that tune and other ideas
Ranell 19th Jan 2021 Teacher
i love all of these ideas.
I teach a class for Memory Care called World of interest. I have in the past relied on being there to judge the mood of the room and change my focus by how the group is interacting. But now, with the Pandemic, my classes are taught through Zoom. So I am just another talking head on the television, even though I am interacting with the residents and calling them by name. I think that they do not have a concept for visual virtual communication, so everything I have tried has fallen flat. My favorite and most vocal residents have been moved to other communities. I am left with a group with mid to late stage dementia. I joke with fellow instructorst hat t the sign of a good class is that no one falls asleep... I just started the Spring term last week, and I am in big trouble. Does anyone have any suggestions or has anyone had success with Zoom?
Gail 19th Jan 2021 Extended Care Assistant
I am working 40 hours a week in a memory support unit (advanced dementia) and have 20 residents.
I am finding that a bulk of my time is spent managing behaviours other than doing activities.
From a lady in her 60’s who has a 3 second attention span to a 96 year old who cries much of the time, makes for busy days.
I’ve tried many of the suggestions on this site and on some occasions it goes well and others not, mostly not.
Music, aromatherapy and one on one are the main activities that are helpful.

Susan 20th Jan 2021 Activity Director
Hi Ranell
I’ll suggest music activities and simple exercise or combining both together
But I like music because it is mostly an auditory activity so once the residents are group members start singing it’s more about singing then being on the zoom call
Here is a list of songs that you might like to use
See what songs get the most singing and use those songs
It may change from week to week but I think music is the way to go
You may want to use songs that have emotion attached to them like marching for when the Saints go marching in etc.
Susan 20th Jan 2021 Activity Director
Hi Gail
Yes a Group as you are describing can be difficult
I am sure you and others have tried to find the root of the problem behaviors
It can be difficult but if you find what causes the behavior you might be able to stop it
Otherwise do the best you can and be thankful for the good days
Ranell 20th Jan 2021 Teacher
Thanks, Susan. I will try that for my next class. They love to sing in person, so maybe that will keep them engaged.
Pauline 16th Feb 2021 Activities Assistant Dementia Unit
Hello Kathleen, I see you have some lovely activities suggested for your residents in the above posts. I am wondering if you might need help more with the actual planning of your role.
I have been activities assistant for many years in a mixed level dementia unit. I have been left to get on with my own planning, purchasing and 'doing' the actual activities, so I understand how difficult it is for you.
I can make a few suggestions.
Really get to know your residents through talking 1/1 with them, to families and staff. Use Life History forms to build up a profile of each resident. Then you will be able to plan activities that are person-centred. Excuse the jargon but it is really important that you find out what they really like. Include previous work, travel, music, pets, hobbies, etc etc. For example, a residents might have loved tinkering with old motor-bikes. So collect up a load of parts and spend time, safely, with him, looking at them and photos of bikes.
So activities are guided by what the resident themselves want and may respond to. Once you have a starting profile you get to the fun part when you can look up ideas on this site and use your own ingenuity to make activities for each resident. You will then be able to group the residents, so if gardening is a favourite for five of them you would be able to plan gardening activities. While you are busy with that activity the other residents could have books and puzzles, games and music next to them.
It is impossible to cater for all 30 at once so I hope you will be able to call on the care staff. Not easy I know!
This will take a long time initially, I see you have 30 residents. You have my sympathy, that is a lot to care for. So you will need to enlist the support of your Activities manager. Can I suggest you go to the manager and discuss your plans and ask for extra paid time to set it all up.
There are many world wide sites that can help like NAPA, etc.
Please do not beat yourself up when you feel that you are not successful or that the residents are not 'responding'. Response takes many forms and you may see small movements, like toe tapping to music.
I wish you well. There are many days when I feel things just did not go well then the little 'Pearl’ moments happen.

Do you have a monthly plan
Susan 17th Feb 2021 Activity Director
Hi Pauline
Your suggestions seem most helpful
Thank you for sharing them

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