Wednesday, November 30, 2011

5 Tips to make family visits and activities a success

Family visits are about to be more frequent with the holidays coming up. They are important because they give residents something to look forward to, decrease the residents feeling of separation, and it gives staff a chance to include family in their care. While family visits are important they are not always easy. Family members often do not know how to act or what to say because of all of the changes they see in their loved one.

Here are keys tips to make these visit a success and to include the family in programming:

1. Keep the family informed: It becomes the staff’s responsibility to help the family through this process. It is important to keep the family updated on an elder’s condition. If a family member is visiting for the first time give them a tour of the facility and let them know what goes on with their family member so they feel comfortable. Communication is a strong tool in making family members comfortable even if they cannot always be present.

2. Understanding the perspective of the family: Another way that staff can help family is to be understanding. When an elder moves into a new environment it can be a shock and a big adjustment for family. Family members may be feeling angry or guilty about the changes and they may need someone to talk to or listen to them. Try to understand that family members’ anger is usually at the situation not at the staff. Showing support to the family will bring them comfort and make them feel better about their family member being in caring facility.

3. Proper scheduling: Scheduling of family visits is also important because we want to make the most of them. Family members should know dropping by just at any time isn’t always best. Visits are most successful when the resident is alert and feeling fresh. Mealtimes are great for the family to visit so they can share in that experience with the resident. A bad time to visit would be when resident is getting daily care such as changing or getting their medicine because it will feel like an interruption and overtake the visit. Visiting during activities is only successful when the family can participate in the activity. We don’t want a resident to choose between family and their favorite activity. If a staff member notices a time of day when a resident is bored or feeling lonely that would be the best time for a visit. Special events like anything going on for the upcoming holidays are great times for visits. Residents are able to share in the holiday experience with their family as well as with other residents and the staff of the facility which is more meaningful.

4. Family participation: a great way to keep the family involved in the life of their loved one is to give them an active role in programming and activities. This can be done by gathering information on the residents, suggesting activities that would be appreciated and also give feedback: When a family member suggests something, always mention how was the activity received. The most successful activities are also when the family participates!

5. Ending the visit: The last thing to ensure a good visit is to help them end well. Leaving is always hard for the family and the resident. Try to plan on ending a visit when the resident is going to leave to do something else like a meal or an activity this will make the transition much smoother. Family should also make a point to set up another time to visit. Staff can step in and help them set up a good time that is appropriate. Bringing a resident a card or a picture to have after they leave is something a family member can do to make the resident feel special. Staff should also encourage family to call and send letters and cards in between visits. This will help the resident feel loved even when the family is not there. Staff can also remind residents when their family is coming and help to plan something so they get the most from the visit. Sometimes visits are the only contact residents have with their family so it is important for staff to help these visits go smooth and be successful.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Importance of Intergenerational Programming

There are many residents who have family who visit them on a regular basis and are able to get the intergenerational experience naturally. These experiences are enriching to the residents’ lives. They are also beneficial for the family members. The resident is able to interact with younger children, teenagers, and young adults. The younger generation is able to learn about the experience of aging and to be more comfortable with the elderly.

However it is very important that residents not only interact with their family but also get to be a part of the community. There are also residents who do not have family in the area or do not have family at all. Community interaction is particularly important for these residents. Intergenerational activity should be included into programming at least once a month.

Residents respond well to toddlers and younger children so an activity including them is ideal. Inviting parents within the community that have small children to a community is a great way to include them. The children can come with their parents and play with the residents. Offering coffee, juice, and healthy snacks for the children and adults is warm and inviting. Encourage residents to play with the children and provide appropriate toys and games. This will be a great experience for both the resident and the children.

Preschool age children also interact well with residents. At this age children like to perform. Creating an event where they can perform a sing a long or a play for the residents would be enjoyable for everyone. You could also invite a performer for the residents and children to watch together such as a magic or puppet show.

Elementary level students can also provide a different experience with residents. At this age children are learning important reading, writing, and math skills that some residents are masters at. Set up a time for students to come after school and work with the residents in subjects they are struggling with. Another great opportunity for activity would be inviting the children to come read books to the elderly. Residents benefit from the interaction because they feel important and helpful while children benefit from learning social skills with the elderly and are proud of their learning accomplishments.

Another great program that works well with schools is the “adopt a grandparent program”. This is an ongoing program where a couple of students visit one or two of the same residents every week. This enables them to create a bond. This activity is dependent on good planning with the community along with the school. The students can create questions to ask the residents or topics in history that they would like to discuss with the resident. At the end of the program the student can write a report about their experience and present it to their classmates.

For high school level students community service is a requirement they must achieve before graduating. Students can be contacted individually or within a group or club to volunteer with residents. Church groups can also be a good source for teenage volunteers. These teenagers can be scheduled to help with events, visiting a resident one on one, or creating their own events within the community. Again these are good experiences for residents and students in building self-esteem and intergenerational relationships. Lifelong friendships can be formed between teenagers and residents.

All ages of children need to be prepared and educated to work with the elderly. Talk about the aging process and what it is like to be “old”. Important things to cover are an understanding of memory loss and the possibility of death. Be sure to know all of the schools in your area and make a list of possible programs and volunteer opportunities. Developing good relationships with schools and counselors will help programs in the future. Planning and preparing is the best way to having good intergenerational programming for residents.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How we can meet the programming needs of the Boomers?

Baby Boomers are a huge cohort of people who were born between 1946 and 1964. The oldest of this cohort are beginning to retire and contemplate how they will spend this time. This generation is known for its spunk and tenacity. Baby Boomers are not afraid of change and will do what it takes to implement it. They are commonly known for being optimistic, independent, and industrious, being active in social causes and bettering themselves. They are more interested in health and technology than any other generation that has preceded them.

The Baby Boomers take this same outlook and values with them through retirement and this stage of their life. They are not going to want to be stagnant and stop what they love to do. They may not even want to retire. Whatever it is that they do with this stage of their life they will want to choose and have full control over as they have with the other stages of their life. When programming for the baby boomers here are some things that should be considered:

  • The names of activities and programs have to be modernized so they sound current and appeal to their interests and values.

  • Activities will have to be purpose driven and have a meaning. Baby Boomers will want to feel as though they are contributing something and be able to fully understand its significance.

  • Programming will need to be flexible and not be on a rigid schedule. Commitment driven large group activities will not be appealing but rather smaller spontaneous group activities. Baby Boomers are always up for changes and they want their activities to be the same

  • Facilities will have to adapt to boomers wanting more amenities. These amenities will need to be geared towards the personal preferences of each Boomer.

  • The music that is used should be from the 1960’s through the 1980’s.

  • Activities that give back to the community and make a positive impact will also be successful. Things like recycling committees, mentoring, volunteering etc. will make the Baby Boomers feel useful.

  • Health driven activities such as organic cooking classes, exercising, stress management classes, etc. will appeal to the Baby Boomers

  • New opportunities for learning such as educational classes and guest speakers will be engaging

  • Baby Boomers have been the reason for the culture change movement and this must be kept in mind when activities and programs are being made. They must be person centered not centered on the facility or establishment.