Portable Activity Ideas to Reach Every Resident, Everyday

Portable Activity Ideas to Reach Every Resident, Everyday

User Profile By Haley Burress   United States

Found In: Activities Articles One-on-One

Not every resident attends group activities, and it can be a serious struggle to find ways to get them engaged with recreation. Intentionally curated carts and baskets can increase your reach and keep your residents happily active.
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Not every resident attends group activities, and it can be a serious struggle to find ways to get them engaged with recreation. Intentionally curated carts and baskets can increase your reach and keep your residents happily active.

Why Activity Carts?

Residents come to your community with different preferences and challenges. While some seniors are social butterflies and love attending nearly every group activity on your calendar, most are more selective of what they attend. Without consistent activity participation, you can begin to get concerned about lack of involvement.


Short Term Stay Residents

Residents who stay in your community for short-term rehab (less than 100 days) are especially tricky to pull into activity programming. When these seniors aren’t participating in multiple therapy sessions each day, they are tired, in pain, or simply relaxing. An activity cart can be a way of intentionally giving them something to do during their downtime in the comfort of their own room. It is also a great way for them to see the smiling face of a Activity Professional or Volunteer each day.


Long Term Stay Residents

Sometimes, residents just prefer to be alone. This makes it especially difficult for Activity Professionals to find ways to engage them outside of a 1:1 program. Activity carts can provide engagement in their room, and a regular check-in with staff can be helpful to check for signs of isolation or depression.


How to Get Started

Activity carts or baskets are relatively easy to put together:

  • Start with a theme for each cart (we’ll give you some ideas later in this article)
  • Purchase supplies to fill the cart, or find hidden treasures in your activity closet or library
  • Assure you have the staff or volunteers to walk the carts around your community
  • Add the time you’ll constantly walk around with your cart to your activity calendar
  • Visit every room, every time and chart it as an activity
  • If someone is not in their room, note that in your records
  • Begin with just one cart three times per week and then work your way up

Cart Ideas

You can reach nearly every resident every time you grab your roving activity cart! Even if it is a short interaction, your regular check-in can do wonders for relationship building and involvement. Every community is different, and you may have to tweak some of these to fit your unique needs, but it’s a great start to get you (and your carts) rolling.


Technology Cart

This cart is ideal for your short-term stay residents. Allow them to take an item from your cart by checking it out so that you know where your equipment is at all times. This cart can be expensive in regards to supplies, but you can work with your Marketing department to slowly increase your supplies. After all, having access to these items is a HUGE selling point for potential new residents. For your Technology Cart, offer:

  • Tablets or laptops
  • Handheld electronic games (poker and solitaire are usually popular)
  • iPods already loaded with music playlists and podcasts
  • Headphones and/or earbuds
  • eReaders

Library Cart

Residents will love this door-to-door service, where they can stock up on new reading materials and adaptive equipment that makes reading easier on the eyes. You can include:

  • Books from your senior community library (ask for donations!)
  • Magazines
  • Inexpensive reading glasses
  • Magnifiers
  • Books on Tape (just be sure to officially check these out with residents so you know where they are when it is time to return them)

Something To Do Cart

Load up this cart with activities residents can enjoy in their rooms, independently. You can include anything that your residents have expressed an interest in, like:

  • Books and magazines
  • Crossword and Sudoku puzzles (with pencils)
  • Stationery and envelopes (with pens)
  • Crocheting hooks, knitting needles, yarn
  • Sketch pads with pastels
  • Decks of playing cards
  • Notebooks and pens/pencils
  • Your community’s activity calendar and highlighters

Hydration Cart

Team up with your dining and nursing department to make a serious effort to decrease dehydration in your community. Push this cart around mid-morning and even mid-afternoon if possible after picking it up from the dining department. You can include one “Drink Special” of the day, along with cups and straws, such as:

  • Pitchers of smoothies
  • Pitchers of spa water (water with slices of citrus fruits or veggies like cucumber)

You can swap out the drinks every once in a while and use cups of fruits or vegetables that are high in water content, such as:

  • Cucumber
  • Grapes
  • Watermelon

Holiday Cart

Swap out supplies on this holiday-themed cart, matching it with national or local events or traditions:

  • December holidays: cards and envelopes, individual crafts, holiday magazines
  • Spring holidays: themed word searches and crafts
  • Sporting events: related magazines or newspaper articles, word games, story prompts with a journal

Family Visit Cart

You can leave this cart or basket available for families to use near the front desk or activity room. Ask them to sign the items in and out so that you know where your supplies are, and so that you can chart the visit in your resident records. Switch out the offerings regularly, and consider including:

  • Playing cards
  • Board games
  • Puzzles
  • Plastic resealable bags with individual paper crafts inside (these are especially great for the residents to do with grandkids)
  • Magazines, especially ones that focus on reminiscing
  • Word games, like word searches or crosswords

Reaching every resident every day, even if for a small moment, will show benefits quickly. Let us know if you have a traveling activity cart in action, what you include, and what benefits you have noticed.

Cheering you on as you roll through your hallways spreading encouragement and activity!

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Comments   Post a Comment

Susan 18th Oct 2019 Activity Director
These are good ideas Jill
Jill 17th Oct 2019 Recreational Aide
Ideas for carts. Bags with old eyeglasses to be cleaned
Small spoons to be polished you can use the ones people collect on vacation
Old jewelry to be sorted ie watches bracelets clip on earrings
100 piece puzzles or less not to childish but larger pieces
A lot of these items can be obtained by donation or from second hand stores
Cloth napkins to be folded
Possibilities are endless and helpful to isolated residents
Katie 9th Aug 2019 Activity Coordinator
Hi,

Can anyone in the UK suggest where to purchase a similar cart?

Thanks
Susan 9th Aug 2019 Activity Director
Maybe you can try a local supermarket
Barbara 6th Mar 2019 Recreation Coordinator
Ok! Bought my colorful cart and named it 'Fun on the Run'! Have started stocking it with
Word search, crosswords, adult coloring books and markers, 1 lb weights, stretchy bands.
Also will incorporate my Music & Memory Program with MP3 players loaded with different genres of music, ie. big band, classical, opera, etc.

I have a few questions for those of you who are already using a cart:
1. Do you stay in the room and work with a resident?
2. Do you drop off items and if so do they keep them or do you wait a few days to get them back? Do you sign out items?
Thanks so much for your input and comments/suggestions!
Darla 9th Mar 2019 Recreation Therapy Manager (former Activity Coordinator)
For Barbara.

Activity Documentation = leave items for resident/client

Therapeutic Recreation = remain with resident/client and document # of minutes of therapy in the MDS (or other medical system required documentation process for your country).

I found the cart useful for "Residents at Risk" of isolation.

Adding to the rolling cart each day - yesterday I purchased a small carrying caddy for hand massage and pamper kit. Lotions (hospital issued) and added my own essential oils of lavender(calming) and orange citrus(stimulation).

A fishing game for the fellows - magentic cardboard fish and short bamboo poles with dental floss and magnets tied to bottom.

Calendars (free) from the local stores; muscle cars collector cars calendar; motorcycles calendar; and big rig semi trucks calendar; beautiful flowers calendar; and inspirational message(scenery) calendars.

I post the Residents at Risk and their room #s for other therapists/staff to use.

Have Fun with your cart!

Darla
Talita 9th Mar 2019
Love the photo Barb, thanks so much for sharing!
Ms 1st Mar 2019 Activities Assistant
Fabulous ideas! Thank you for presenting them in such a well-organized way! I've already collected several items which would be the basis for a "Something To Do Cart". You've provided ideas for additional things to include. I'd not thought of using a cart for the many one-on-one's that I do. Unfortunately, the activities director is of no help. You folks out here on Golden Carers are my mentors. As a budding activities assistant, I'm ever so grateful and gratified to see things working for the residents I care for.
Haley 5th Mar 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
I'm so thankful you found the article useful! I'm sorry that you feel you aren't getting the mentor relationship from your Activity Director right now - it can be frustrating when you want to learn new things but cannot find an invested teacher. So happy you can find that type of inspiration right here on Golden Carers - your residents will benefit from your hard work.
Ms 12th Mar 2019 Activities Assistant
Thank you again Haley! Much gratitude for our on-line support & tribe!
Darla 27th Feb 2019 Recreation Therapy Manager (former Activity Coordinator)
Very useful ideas. I had a rolling cart set up in past, but the focus was on large group activities and entertainment.
Now that I am focusing on Therapeutic Recreation and Residents are risk of isolation once again, I feel a fresh energy to get something in place! Your ideas are helpful and thought provoking.

Thank You Haley.
Haley 1st Mar 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Thank YOU Darla! I love that you are taking a fresh approach - we can all use a bit of new inspiration every now and again. Let me know how it goes!
Barbara 27th Feb 2019 Recreation Coordinator
I'm on this!
Haley 1st Mar 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Yay! I hope your residents love it, Barbara!
Jane 26th Feb 2019 Activity Director
This is a great idea! Thank you. You could add some sports trading cards to the cart, depending on the season. Eg. Baseball cards in the spring.
Haley 1st Mar 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
That's a great idea, Jane - any sports memorabilia would be a good addition.
Jonna 26th Feb 2019 LS360 Director
Love this idea!!
Haley 1st Mar 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Yay! I hope you can implement some of it in your community, Jonna!
Haley 24th Feb 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Haley has submitted a new article: Portable Activity Ideas To Reach Every Resident, Everyday
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