Activities are all about choice
Suzy Jach remembers when residents in long-term care were expected to attend whatever group activities were taking place day to day. It wasn’t so long ago — Suzy worked at Lawrence Presbyterian Manor in the 1990s, then returned about four years ago.
“I worked in the days that you brought residents to activities even if they didn’t want to come. Now with resident-centered care, we encourage them to come, and we invite them. However, if they don’t want to, it’s their right,” Suzy said. “They’re expecting more out of their life here.”
Suzy serves as an activity assistant in our health care neighborhood and as our social services designee. She says the dual role helps her plan activities because she interviews residents for their social histories when they move in, and she knows what their interests are.
This month, we’re celebrating the dedication and hard work of our activities staff members like Suzy. Nationwide, Activity Professionals Month is observed as a way to appreciate the people who plan and provide activities within senior living communities. Their work is key to helping our residents stay healthy, keep doing what they enjoy, and trying new things.
According to the National Association of Activity Professionals, this is a job that emerged in health care centers about 50 years ago. “It was during these early years that the activity professional became known as the bingo, Bible study and birthday ladies,” the NAAP website states. “The activity professional discovered quickly, there was more to activities than the three Bs.”
The residents in our community have high expectations, Suzy said. The activities staff, led by director Linda Fyler, works hard to meet them. They also get a hand from many University of Kansas students who come to volunteer. The music therapy students are especially popular. “We have a couple who come back, not even needing the hours for school, because they got attached to the residents,” Suzy said.
Suzy helps arrange everything from Bible study to holiday parties to exercise classes. “We have a lot of residents who will help other residents, too, if they are not able to see or to comprehend. This is really nice.”
These days, it’s also common for health care residents to have come up through all levels of care at Presbyterian Manor, so they have a built-in community that makes the transition much easier. “One lady has three of her good friends who come up from independent living to play Scrabble. She hasn’t lost that,” Suzy said.
Although residents are not required to attend group activities, the staff does not want to see anyone isolated. Suzy and her coworkers, with help from the CNAs, will go to residents individually to visit, do manicures, or whatever one-on-one activity they choose. Residents are encouraged to continue doing the things they love.
Helping residents continue to enjoy what they like and encouraging them to try new things is what makes her job so rewarding, Suzy said. “Like I tell the residents, it’s like coming to work and being around your friends. They’re young-acting and they’re fun to be around.”