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One on One Activities

How to Engage People Who Cannot or Will Not Leave Their Room

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One on One Activities

You don't need Wayne Brady or Monty Hall to play Let's Make a Deal with residents.

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Activity directors spend days, weeks, and sometimes even months planning engaging programs for their residents. Despite working hard to offer a variety of programming for residents of all ages and abilities, there is still the task of serving residents who by desire or illness refuse to leave their rooms. To honor their wishes and provide some social stimulation, activity directors plan one-on-one visits with these residents. Common forms of interaction are playing music, reading from stories or scripture, and hand massages.

Activity directors attending the 2012 Pennsylvania Activities Professional Association Conference held at Penn State University shared new ideas for meeting the needs of residents receiving one-on-one services.

  1. Therapy Dogs International (TDI). TDI members and their therapy dogs often respond to Assisted Living communities across the United States. Their time, effort and work help to make a huge difference in the lives of the elderly. As a recreational activity, Therapy Dogs and their handlers typically visit in a designated public area at a specific time that is agreed upon beforehand. Residents stop by to visit with the dog teams unless they are unable to do so. If that is the case, the dog teams might then visit the residents in their rooms or apartments instead of the public area.

  2. Cat Therapy. Several activity professionals have cats that are permanent residents of the community. They are cared for by the activity staff and can be a real pleasure for a resident who could not bring his/her pet to their new home. To assist with containing the cat in selected areas of the home, the directors installed CatStop deterrents at doorways. The devices emit a burst of ultrasonic sound which chases the cat but cannot be heard by humans. The activity directors said the cats quickly learn to stay away from the area.

  3. Birds. Oak Creek Aviaries provides birds to over 600 long term care facilities in the United States. They offer large and small units, with singing and quiet birds.

  4. Butterflies. Residents can watch the caterpillars spin cocoons and then turn into butterflies. The process takes only a few days and the kits are less inexpensive. The small butterfly hatching home is portable and can be taken into rooms for one-on-one visits as well as be included on a shelf in the activity room for individual and group visits.

  5. Aroma Therapy. Small bottles of scents can be brought to residents in their rooms. The smell of pumpkin spice can recall baking and start a conversation. Other scents found to be useful as conversation starters include peppermint as a reminded of the old candy store, Old Spice aftershave to talk about getting ready for a dance, cotton ball dipped in wine and wiped on the edge of a wine glass to spark memories of special occasions etc.

  6. Lemon and Peppermint Sticks. Insert a peppermint straw into a lemon and sip. Peppermint Straws are available at Cracker Barrel restaurants and upon use melt in the mouth. The smells and the taste of this shared experience can start memories flowing.

  7. Let’s Make A Deal. Take three boxes of equal size and in them place three different items – ex. a treat, an old banana peel and a plastic bug. Bring all three boxes to the resident’s room and have the resident select a box. Let the resident smell the boxes, shake the boxes, and have three guesses before they pick and open one box. No matter the outcome the resident will be engaged in having a fun experience.

  8. Bread and Water. Bring the resident a sampling of different flavored breads from pumpkin to apple and after the tasting together enjoy fruit flavored water.

  9. Memory Lane. Ask the family to provide you with family photos. Place the photos in plastic sheets inside a binder and bring the binder to the resident. Have them look at the pictures with you. If possible, they can tell you about the people in the photos. If the resident is memory impaired, you can still use the photos to talk about the scenes, the summer picnic, and the snowman in the front yard, the first day of school etc.

  10. Bring a Cart. Bring a cart and let the resident help you with a task from sorting colored socks, to placing papers in a binder and even rolling dough into pretzel shapes. Everyone loves to be useful to their community.
Each day brings new challenges for activity directors who seek to bring joy into lives of very different individuals. The ideas here may be the answer to making that personal connection with your next resident.

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