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If you are working as an Activity Professional in a memory care neighborhood right now, you are facing even more unique challenges in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keeping a calm and peaceful atmosphere, including activities, can feel overwhelming. Here are a few ideas to keep you and your residents engaged.
Challenges for Dementia Neighborhoods
COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in every senior living community’s activity program. However, it can be even more challenging in a dementia care neighborhood. Here are specific challenges you may face or could be currently facing:
- Worried, stressed out, or confused caregivers
- Decreased staff due to illness or self-isolation
- Fewer visits from family members or volunteers
- More “scary” news programs on throughout the day regarding the pandemic
- Different dining experiences due to increased infection control policies
- Fewer group activities
- Fewer 1:1 or small group interventions
Depending on your community and neighborhood, as well as any precautions your administration may be taking, you may also be trying to encourage isolation for residents. This seems especially difficult, as residents with dementia are always on the move.
Setting the Atmosphere
First and foremost, exceptional dementia care begins with the environment and atmosphere. While you can’t change what is happening around the world and in your city, you can control the atmosphere within the walls of your dementia care neighborhood. Keep things peaceful and calm by:
- Reminding caregivers and other staff to leave their COVID-19 anxiety outside your dementia care doors
- Diffusing lavender scents throughout your community
- Keeping televisions turned off unless they are playing something relaxing or as a part of an activity. Remember, COVID-19 talk is literally everywhere on television right now, including commercials.
- Play relaxing music throughout the day
- Brighten up your halls and doors with festive wreaths, garlands, or other decorations
- Add some live plants (that are safe)
Focus on Your Staff
You already know that your staff members are doing their very best to meet the needs of residents as well as to meet the complex needs they have right now at home. While you can’t solve everything, you can make a conscious effort to take extra good care of your team right now. They need it, and they’ll be able to give better care if they feel loved and valued.
Encourage and care for your staff members by:
- Writing a quick note on a post-it a few times per week praising them for their hard work
- Starting team meetings by checking in on how they are feeling; letting them vent for a few moments in a supportive staff meeting can do wonders for them and for everyone else
- Making sure they are taking their breaks and their lunches for the full time they are allowed
- Encouraging them to get outside and breathe some fresh air throughout the day
- Involving them in the activity planning so they can share their creativity
Creative Dementia Care Interventions
Depending on your community’s infection control and isolation policies right now, you may have to adapt some of these ideas. However, these are a good start for your new normal.
Large Group Activities
Large group programs are extra challenging right now if you are still allowed to have them. Keep your programs safe by keeping everyone at least 6 feet apart and not using shared items.
If you are searching for a special entertainer for an upcoming event, ask your local favorites if they would entertain your residents via Skype or another video chat application. This way, you are supporting your favorites and your residents still get a good show.
6 Small Group Activities
Still allowed in many dementia care neighborhoods, small group activities can include:
- Drawing to music (don’t share markers; give every participant their own cup of writing utensils to use)
- Chair exercises (especially helpful for your residents who wander or need to be active)
- Sing, Sway, and Clap Alongs (make your sing-a-longs more active to keep residents engaged)
- Hallway Bingo (use bedside tables pulled to the doorway for cards to sit on)
- Walking groups outside
- Gardening groups outside (everyone works on their own pot and with their own materials)
12 Individual or 1:1 Interactions
Ideas can vary by resident needs and interests, but here are a few ideas for keeping residents engaged individually or with a staff member:
- Smoothie carts (Happy Hour carts, Snack carts, Ice Cream Truck carts, etc. are also a great way to connect with residents individually)
- Reminiscing Questions of the Day - post these at nursing stations to encourage caregivers to start up conversations during personal care time
- Busy boxes (choose items that are easy to sanitize, such as matching nuts and bolts, sorting buttons by size, etc.)
- Laminate drawing starters (like these) and use dry erase markers to have residents finish the drawing. Markers and laminated paper are simple to wipe down so they can be disinfected for others to use next
- Hang prisms on resident windows - sunny days will bring rainbows
- Armchair travel programs, but break up the information over the course of a few visits
- Bird Feeders hanging outside of each window, along with a taped-up list of common birds in your area
- Guided meditation - keep it short and sweet, and use an app like Headspace if you need the extra support
- Walking a labyrinth - make your own in a community area of your neighborhood and cue residents how to walk through it
- Invite family members to email you videos of them saying hello to their loved one or singing a favorite song
- Read short stories or poems, then create your own together
- Invite family members to make a short photo book via sites like Shutterfly or Snapfish with old photos their loved one can look at. Encourage participation by sending a direct link to websites in your next communication.
Residents who need to wander will do so, and that’s okay. Just be sure a staff member walks with them to monitor and make sure they aren’t making too many room visits. Remember to be as flexible as possible while still being safe with your infection control policies. Work with your interdisciplinary team to find the balance that works for your neighborhood.
What challenges and solutions are you finding while working in memory care neighborhoods right now?