Despite an initial hesitancy among seniors to seek assisted living situations, 73% of families report that a senior’s quality of life improves after a move to an assisted living facility.
When seniors reach the stage of finally accepting assistance in their daily living routines, they embark on a new journey that can be extremely empowering and rewarding when managed correctly.
Moving from their home of many decades to a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (an RCFE) is often the first step in increasing or maintaining their current level of activity.
A well-trained RCFE administrator can help the individual see this transition as an opportunity to continue to enjoy the things they love as well as to explore new and exciting experiences.
With the support of an engaged caretaking staff, seniors can feel empowered to participate in activities that maintain mobility and an active lifestyle. This can often be key to a senior’s happiness, self-worth, and overall feelings of independence.
How an RCFE Administrator and Staff Can Help Seniors Stay Mentally and Physically Engaged
Start Out Small
For the RCFE staff involved in planning meaningful activities, the most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s not about you.
Learn how to properly empower those under your care to encourage mental and physical enrichment on their own terms. You may have great ideas about activities seniors ought to pursue but without mutual agreement, your efforts will fail.
For example, you may have concerns about extra pounds an individual has gained and you would like to see them set senior wellness, exercise, or weight-loss goals.
So you conduct research about food portion control and low-impact exercises, present your findings, and discover that your senior isn’t interested. Not everyone has an interest in pursuing fitness even if it’s the healthy thing to do. A gradual approach towards change may get better results over time.
Getting someone mentally engaged first tends to motivate them to become more physically engaged.
Encouraging seniors to pursue exciting pet projects or to visit with a grandchild may lead to more physical activity in a natural way. You may later come to notice that the weight gain actually stemmed from a desire to snack out of boredom.
So remember; when you can start out small, make it about them and set realistic expectations.
Take Time To Learn About Each Individual
Knowing what activities to offer is essential to keeping your seniors engaged and interested. Getting to know your residents will help you to match seniors with compatible activities.
Have conversations. Ask residents about their interests and passions. You would be surprised how much you can take away from a brief conversation and then use that information to plan your activity selections in the future.
As you become more familiar with your resident’s likes and interests, planning group activities will become easier. Mr. Jones may love playing cards but Mrs. Smith does not.
Most residents who move into an RCFE usually come alone. A new environment with new people can be stressful.
Each resident that moves into your community comes with their own unique history and life stories. Some will assimilate well while others may struggle. Knowing the kind of activities that each resident might be interested in can be just the right catalyst to activity participation.
The families may also have ideas of how their loved ones should be spending their day doing activities. Large communities offer a variety of enrichment programs that a smaller community may not be able to. But no matter the size of the community, there needs to be an activity that a resident may be interested in.
But what about the resident who does not want to participate no matter how hard you try to encourage participation?
Dig deeper: Was this resident outgoing and had varied interests before moving into the community? The family may expect Dorothy to become a social butterfly, but Dorothy may have no interest in venturing into a group activity. Explaining to the family that if the resident was not socially active prior to the move, they will most likely not be active after the move.
Pay Attention to Clues
Being observant can often pay dividends. Look for clues about a senior’s enthusiasm. Photos and reading materials often provide tip-offs and good conversation starters.
Magazines and books typically reflect absorbing hobbies, interests, and values. If a well-used Bible rests on the bed stand, for example, it typically indicates an interest in religious matters, and attending a Bible study or volunteering at a church may be a good future activity.
Different Activities Fulfill Different Needs
Part of that required curriculum covers the needs of the residents in many important areas including:
The state-required RCFE administrator certification prepares future administrators on how to research, set up, and evaluate appropriate activities to help meet these needs. Online staff training and RCFE classes to meet administrator CEU requirements also provide additional resources for learning more ways to keep residents involved in fulfilling activities while meeting their different needs.
The best way to know if you are fulfilling resident needs is to simply ask. Simple and proactive communication can go a long way in planning meaningful and entertaining activities.
Help Seniors Set Goals
Writing down the desired goal and developing steps to accomplish it provides momentum for anyone, and this exercise can be especially helpful for seniors.
Once you’ve identified the individual’s special interest, help the person select a simple step to get started. In order to make sure the senior chooses a reasonable objective, you can introduce the concept of SMART goals. Here’s an example:
- Specific – Resident will participate in card games of choice
- Measurable – Attendance in 2 activities
- Achievable – Resident enjoys card games, needs minimal assistance to attend a card game
- Relevant – Bridge and poker games will occur 1-2 times per week.
- Time-bound- Resident will attend 1 or more card games per week.
By checking that the initial target meets these guidelines, your senior can clearly define an achievable goal, and together you can track tangible progress. Remind the senior that baby steps are fine to start.
Plan Senior Activities at Different Skill Levels
Seniors can usually realize their limitations with familiar activities, but if they are starting a new hobby or interest, they may overestimate what they can accomplish.
For example, the person may not realize how complicated a new knitting pattern or art project is to carry out.
As a caretaker, it’s important to make sure that group activities are offered at various skill levels that are appropriate for different physical and mental abilities.
Hire Caring Staff Members
Whether you’re just learning how to start an assisted living facility or already running a busy community, you cannot perform every task yourself. You need to find the right people to help care for residents and train your employees to meet the needs of those residents.
Keeping all the individuals in your facility involved in meaningful activities takes the time and patience of all staff members. Starting with a good team is essential.
Every senior you care for in an RCFE will have unique interests, abilities, and needs. And like most everyone else, they will have ambitions and desires to fill their days with activities that match those interests and needs.
With a little bit of planning and some time and patience, you can ensure that your residents are remaining active while getting the most out of their day-to-day activities.
If you or your staff are interested in progressing your professional training please contact Assisted Living Education today. We are here to help!
People Also Ask:
How do seniors stay mentally active?
Mental fitness activities include learning something new, keeping stress under control and maintaining physical fitness and a healthy diet.
How can seniors keep busy?
The best activities are a blend of socializing, moving, creating and thinking. Activities might include: online learning, volunteering, participating in a book club or photography.