The best tool for any activity director is education! There is valuable information in the activity director certification materials, in college courses required for certified therapeutic recreation specialists, through workshops, conferences and conventions.There is also another source of information - the printed word.
The newest research into brain chemistry, the aging process, dementia and other issues confronting seniors is addressed in numerous books with scientifically proven ideas. Listed below are a few titles.
- The Mature Mind by Gene Cohen.
This book explains the aging brain and how to work with seniors. “Memories are created when clusters of hundreds or thousands of neurons fire in a unique pattern,” Cohen writes. “The more often a particular pattern is stimulated, the more sensitive and permanent are the connections between the neurons in the pattern,” Cohen writes. “Not only does learning link neurons in new patterns, it also stimulates neurons to grow new connections.”
- No One Is Too Old to Learn: Neuroandragogy: A Theoretical Perspective on Adult Brain Functions and Adult Learning by Clive A. Wilson.
The author of discusses how adults can learn new concepts and sharpen their minds throughout life.
- The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge.
In his book he states, “The more education we have, the more socially and physically active we are, and the more we participate in mentally stimulating activities, the less likely we are to get Alzheimer’s disease or dementia… “Not all activities are equal in this regard. Those that involve genuine concentration – studying a musical instrument, playing board games, reading and dancing – are associated with a lower risk for dementia.”
- This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin.
This book discuses how there is a age when we stop having an interest in new forms of music but never an interest in music. It also reveals what brain studies discover about human reaction to music.
- Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks.
These are case studies of how music affects the human brain, such as the memory responses of Parkinson and stroke patients.
- A Bittersweet Season by Jane Gross.
This New York Times reporter writes of her mother’s journey from CCRC in Florida to assisted living and then long term care in New York. She speaks frankly about the family’s view of aging, illness and care options.
- My Stroke of Insight by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor.
This is a brain scientist's personal journey. She talks about the way she felt treated in long term care when she could not speak, could not move and appeared ‘out of it’ but heard, felt, and remembered so she could in this book document her care. She writes frankly about her reaction to caregivers.
- I’m Still Here by John Zeisel.
This book gives practical advice for health care workers and families on what works and what doesn’t when assisting residents with dementia. Tips on what families should bring to a visit and how staff can encourage productive behavior in reluctant residents with dementia.
- The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins.
This book is a must read for family members of residents with dementia. It gives insight into what life is like for the person dealing with the onset and the symptoms of dementia. It not only helps loved ones understand some of the actions and re-actions of the person with dementia, but also offers advice on ways to deal with behavioral issues and where to find medical help.
These are just a sampling of the books with benefits for activity professionals and families and can also be used for background for in-service training for other staff including certified nursing assistants.