Diverse activity programs can benefit facility residents

Staff writer

A heightened sense of community, improved health, reduced medication, continual learning, and happiness are outcomes diverse activity programs can have on residents of assisted living facilities, according to county officials.

Amanda Kerr, director of nursing services, said Peabody Health and Rehab incorporates many traditional activities like bingo, Bible study, and Wheel of Fortune into residents’ routines.

However, the activity program is being enhanced, Kerr said to include other activities residents want because of the potential positive effects.

“A good activity program helps reduce depression and anxiety,” Kerr said. “There is a lot of research out there that says medication doses also can be lowered if residents are kept active and involved in things.”

She said good activity programs also reduce instances of falls and conflict.

Kerr is seeking teens to help teach residents how to paint or draw in an art therapy activity. An “iPad exploration” activity also is planned. Some other “enhanced activities” being considered and implemented are a food club where residents get to decide with staff what they want to try cooking, and a walking club to get residents more outdoor exercise.

“The purpose of giving them more choices is so they have more say so in their lives,” Kerr said. “It helps gives them more independence.”

Gayle Voth, activities director at Bethesda Home in Goessel, said a large part of the Bethesda’s residents can’t see well enough or have enough usage in their hands to take part in craft projects, but there are alternatives.

“We do a lot with music,” Voth said.

A bluegrass trio performs regularly. Devotionals are also held on Wednesdays.

“A lot of people come to those events,” she said. “Even those that have significant dementia will sing along.”

An activity called “That’s History” is designed to get residents to converse about historic events they remember.

Sometimes staff also assist residents draw out histories of their lives or pick topics to read about.

“It helps in memory recall,” Voth said. “Sometimes it can get emotional.”

Bonnie Sawyer, Director of Marion Assisted Living, said choice is important, too.

Even if they don’t take part in the activities, many of her residents will sit and converse with the ones who are taking part.

Activities also are planned to accommodate physical disabilities, Sawyer said.

“They team up on projects and we work with their strengths,” Sawyer said.

Area schools also collaborate with care facilities for a mutual benefit.

Voth said Bethesda recently played host to a community event called “It’s Fall, Y’all,” in which there were wagon rides, pumpkin painting, a petting zoo, and an s’mores making station.

“Our residents always enjoy interacting with children,” Voth said. “It gave them a chance to get outside and relive activities they might have done in their younger years.”

In “Generation Bridge,” fifth graders are paired with residents to meet on a weekly basis.

“Kids ask about historic events and personal things in residents’ lives,” Voth said. “It’s intellectually stimulating for residents and helps gives them a sense of purpose. Their partners rely on them to be there every week.”

Other activities are designed to help combat depression.

“When residents feel a sense of acceptance, I think they feel happier,” Voth said. “They always love interacting with the kids, and when the preschoolers come it really brings out a lot of smiles.”

Sawyer said community involvement also plays a large part in residents’ happiness and wellbeing.

“Most of our residents grew up here, lived here, and raised kids here,” Sawyer said. “This is still their home, but depression could set in if they become disconnected from the community.”

She said residents seem to enjoy doing things for or making things for school kids and the community.

“About everyone takes part when we go out and eat or take outings to different places,” she said. “It gets them out of the building and into the community where they see other people that they know.”

With the new activity program at Peabody Health and Rehab, Kerr hopes to engage residents who might not take part in traditional activities with new activities.

“We want residents to keep learning,” she said. “It makes you feel better when you are actively engaged in something.”

Last modified Oct. 19, 2016