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Activity Assistant From Maryland, United States

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Kathleen 25th Mar 2020 Activity Assistant


Regarding coronavirus outbreak: We are located in Baltimore, Maryland. Our Governor has placed many restrictions on the community as a whole to slow the progress of the virus. My retirement community has been on lockdown for a week now. I work in the memory care section and our residents are confined to their rooms- everything is one-on-one. We do bring them out for individual hallway walks, just one person at a time. We can also walk outside in our gated patio. I can set up a few of our residents with some paint and a coloring page. Some of them enjoy "playing basketball" while we maintain the 6 feet social distance requirement. It's easy to win the basketball net and ball down in between rooms. I have prayed with individuals and read shortened versions of Bible stories. There is always poems and short stories to read. Normally many of our residents enjoy reading out loud in a group, but they don't seem to want to read in a one-to-one situation . Drop off uplifting stories or current events. With only one exception, our residents seem to enjoy talking when I visit. Most of them are big conversationists. Most of them are not interested in doing word games/puzzles on their own. We are used to doing this in group. Flower (artificial) arranging is always a possibility. They can write cards to the military or their families. We have a small table set up in one resident's room so she can work on jigsaw puzzles. She is a true jigsaw fanatic! For the most part, our residents have remained in their rooms as required. We have a couple wanderers, but we have been able to keep them separated. However, by dinner time, we have a small group who start coming out into the hall. We have moved the chairs so they aren't close to each other. This gives them the most satisfaction and relief from boredom. Then they are ready for dinner and back in their rooms. As the weather gets warmer, we'll be able to take 3 or 4 outside to the patio. We have finally received a couple of iPads and are starting to use Face Time with the families- something we should have been doing for a few years. They miss their families and their families miss them, especially when it is their loved one's birthday.
Kathleen 5th Jan 2020 Activity Assistant


The above suggestions definitely work. Don't forget balloon volleyball. We use a punchball since it's larger and sturdier. The residents never get tired of doing this. In the beginning of my employment, I gathered everyone in a circle and we batted the balloon around. I found that this could be tedious. Many residents wait for the "ball" to come around to them. I found it better to take the "ball" around to the tables (of 4 or 6 residents). Each person gets a better workout.
Kathleen 5th Jan 2020 Activity Assistant


Hello Lauren across the Pond. I also work in memory/dementia care. I use to feel pressured to offer different activities. What I have found is that the opposite may be more helpful to the residents. For instance, our nursing assistants may comment that that we do the same old exercise routines. Doing the same thing over and over can be helpful to residents with dementia. It can help them feel confident. I have been working at the same retirement community for almost 5 years. When I started this job, the residents were used to exercising with 2 senior exercise videos. After a year, I started doing my own routines with music I selected. I also found newer exercise videos. From time to time I use the older videos, and the residents who were familiar with those videos exercise as if they saw the video yesterday. Routine can be a good thing for this population.
1. They always love balloon volleyball.
2. Snowball fight with pom pom snowballs- either tossed acrosss to each other or a snowman target.
3. Sing alongs
4. I have many residents who enjoy group crossword puzzles or Jigsaw puzzles.
5. Laundry folding
6. Decorate remade cookies (I buy packaged cookies from our dollar store.
7. Make no-bake desserts or appetizers and serve them in the afternoon or the next day during a movie or sports event on TV.
8. Simple art activities. Paint seasonal trees: they can either paint their own tree truck or you can print a tree trunk for them to paint leaves on for the season. Winter trees would be bare, but have snow falling i the scene.
9. Have them critique an art poster.
10. Indoor walks if you have the space.
11. Make tissue or paper flowers.
12. Create monthly centerpieces with artificial flowers - again I get most of my flowers from the dollar store.
13. Some of my residents still love to read. I find poems, short stories or edit Bible stories for them to read out loud. We have short discussions, nothing heavy.
14. Pose a question. How hard was it to give up our driving license? What do you think of using medicinal marijuana. Do women belong in politics.
15. Adapted board games such as dominoes.
16. I go online and find good news stories and present them and ask their opinion.
17. We also do You Be the Judge scenarios.
There are so many activities to do. Think outside the box and adapt, adapt, adapt. Good luck and have fun!

Kathleen 10th Jun 2019 Activity Assistant


Memorial Day is set aside to honor and remember military personnel who have died. All military veterans are honored on Veterans Day (Nov 11) and Armed Forces Day (celebrated in May.)
Kathleen 25th Feb 2019 Activity Assistant


Have you tried balloon (punch ball type without the rubberband) volleyball. It is always a hit with my residents. Sometimes they sit in a circle, sometimes they sit at the dining tables. I think the dining tables work best in most cases. I go to each table and get a small game going between four people. If the residents are not able to get the "ball" going between themselves, I hit it back and forth to each person at that table. I will also give each person a chance to hit the ball at least ten times consecutively. If the residents at one table are working well together, I will leave an extra balloon at that particular table so they can have their own game for about 10 minutes. If a person isn't happy with his volley skills, just have a toss and catch with that person.
Another activity that has caught on in our memory care unit is laundry folding. I picked up cheap towels, pillow cases and infant clothes at Goodwill. We also have oodles of bandanas left over from a barbecue. They are lightweight and easy to fold. A laundry basket is a must to stack the folded laundry. Men have even helped with this chore. I always ask the residents if they would mind helping with the laundry. Occasionally I have said that we were collecting donations of clothes to send to people who needed them where the hurricanes struck.
Kathleen 19th Feb 2019 Activity Assistant


There are five of us working in our memory care unit (37 residents max). One full-time coordinator and one part-time assistant during the week. The weekends are manned by two-part-time assistants, one upstairs, one downstairs. Weekends assistants alternate working the weekends. We are each responsible for our own activities on the days we work, and we submit them to the coordinator.
Kathleen 19th Feb 2019 Activity Assistant

Valentine's Day Hearts

I adapted lacing activities when I couldn't find appropriate adult themes for my memory care residents. I use foam sheets and pictures printed off the internet (seasons, holidays, etc). The picture is glued to the foam sheet, leaving enough border around it to include punched holes for threading. Use thin yarn to sew around the picture. I use toothpicks instead of plastic needles since yarn is too thick to thread through the eye of the plastic needle. Secure the toothpick (or half a toothpick) to the yarn with painters tape. Use any stitch that the resident will be familiar with. Simple stitches are usually preferred, and I have had a resident who used a blanket stitch. Use clear postal tape to secure the yarn on the back of the picture when sewing is completed. A yarn loop can be attached for hanging.
Kathleen 25th Nov 2018 Activity Assistant

Hand Massage & Nail Care

Activity professionals in Maryland are not allowed to trim a resident's nails. However, we can use a file on them. Also, when I took MEPAP I was taught to keep individual nail supplies for each resident. This is not practiced where I currently work. The nail instruments do not get cleaned. The same files and polish are used on the hands of many residents.
Kathleen 5th Sep 2017 Activity Assistant


Following Mass, our memory care residents have 30 minutes before lunch. Most return to the Dining/Activity Room and sit and chat with other residents. It's a form of Fellowship that is conducted after many church services around the world. I don't really see the need to "fill the void."

That said, however, I sometimes play a nature video (flowers, birds, aquatic life) with the sound off. Then I play some type of classical music to go along with it. If I don't have to rush off to do some kind of prep work for the afternoon activities, I will go around to some of the tables and chat.

This 30 minute period is an opportunity to socialize and have fellowship.
Kathleen 5th Sep 2017 Activity Assistant


We have 26 residents in our memory care unit. We celebrate the birthdays individually (not as a monthly group.) Each activity assistant (one works per day) celebrates with activities of her choice. Sometimes the birthdays are celebrated at lunchtime, sometimes at a 3pm happy hour. We also have to work around the resident's ability to participate in her own celebration.

A birthday necklace is presented in the morning. I announce that today is this particular resident's (neighbor) birthday. Then it is explained that the birthday party will take place after lunch. I do this so that families don't think we have forgotten their loved one. Of course their picture is posted on the birthday board for the entire month.

The birthday party: I decorate a cart for the cake. Cover with a pretty vinyl table cloth and suspend helium filled balloons from the push bar. Have plates, napkins and cups ready on the cart. Prepare the beverage, whatever it is. Ice cream is optional. Most of our residents don't eat too much, so they are happy with a small piece of cake and hot tea.

I try to make a cute birthday hat. Think Dollar Store for a straw or cardboard hat. Use your imagination to decorate it: artificial flowers, leis, printed graphics, etc. Knowing the individual can guide your selection of materials.

Wheel the cart into the room where everyone is seated. You can have the birthday girl/guy stand with you as you introduce him/her to the guests. Present and place the hat on the person. Hand her/him the birthday card and perhaps one Dollar Store item, such as sunglasses. This is optional. Depending on the individual, this optional gift can be wrapped or not. Remove the balloons from the cart and place on the chair where the birthday person will be sitting.

Say a few words about the birthday girl/guy: past career, children, grandchildren, where they grew up- anything that would be of interest to the other residents. Do this while holding hands with the person or placing your arm around him/her. Hug/kiss the person when you finished talking, then get everyone to sing "Happy Birthday." Clap afterwards, of course.

Follow this up with music, a sing along, and dancing, if feasible. Sometimes, the normally scheduled happy hour coincides with a birthday. So appetizers and a real musician that might be on the calendar for the standard happy hour, can now become a part of the birthday celebration.

Balloon volleyball can be included in the celebration.

At any point during the day, if you 15 minutes, take the birthday person for a "Birthday Walk," if he/she is able. This personal attention is appreciated, even by the person who cannot communicate verbally.

Kathie Homan
Springwell Senior Living