Activities in the time of COVID

Elizabeth Walters, ADC
Activities Director
Southern Hills Skilled Nursing & Rehab

You walk into the facility, take your temperature don your PPE and mentally prepare for your day. You are immediately greeted by a Resident that is happy to see you. They know that you represent an end to their doldrums and are looking forward to the mental, physical, spiritual, cognitive, and social stimulation that they look forward to.

COVID-19 presents many barriers to what our aging population needs. Lack of, or decreased visitation, no outings, except Dr. Appointments, and no food ordered in from outside restaurants is having a profound effect on our Residents emotional well-being.

Touch can be very important, especially with residents that are in advanced stages of dementia.  Hugging, hand holding, manicuring, massaging, and general closeness are still possible with preparation. Using protective gloves, goggles, face shields and a gown are necessary tools now. Also remembering to wash your hands before and after Resident contact and changing your gloves. Hand sanitizer should also be used, especially when no soap and water is available. A hand massage while wearing gloves may not be the same as without but can go a long way to helping a scared and lonely Resident feel loved and appreciated.

Get in the habit of social distancing. Position your Residents six feet apart and have masks available for those that forget theirs. This is the goal we reach for but if you spend any time in a nursing facility, you will understand it is not always possible. Situations involving care, Residents in need of help or assistance, Residents with low vision or hearing and Residents that just do not understand the COVID situation present themselves daily. Since these are unavoidable occurrences wearing your PPE is key to keeping both you and your Residents safe.

activitiesActivities during COVID may be a challenge but are more important than ever. Here are a few of my favorite examples.

We are blessed to have a large dining room in which to play bingo, one person per table and wearing a mask is required. Hand sanitizer should be used by residents before touching Bingo cards and chips and after game is over.  In addition to group Bingo individuals can play Bingo through their daily chronical.  It is a slower paced game, but it gives residents something to look forward to daily. It also makes the game available to Residents that usually do not attend the group program. I’ve noticed that Residents are just as happy when they win. Our chronicle is also an important tool for disseminating information, like our visitation policy. It also includes the daily Chronicle page with fun facts and famous birthdays, daily COVID reminders, funny animal pictures and puzzles to complete independently.

Word games provide cognitive stimulation and social interaction and appreciation as well. Residents can get by with a mask and social distancing.

Exercise is a great fit for these times. From sit-ercise, to Beachball tap, and everything in between. Hand sanitizer should be used before touching reusable things such as Beach balls, bean bags, bats & balls. Many different Residents can enjoy and benefit from physical exercise. Masks and social distancing.

Music is perhaps everyone’s favorite. The Residents enjoy the immersion into personal experiences, memories, and did I include socially stimulating? Residents love Name that tune, where a snippet of a song is played, using my I-phone and Blue tooth speaker, then they guess the name of the song and often get the artist as well. Masks and social distancing.

craftsMy personal favorite are arts and crafts programs. I prepare individual kits so that no sharing is required. One of our Thanksgiving crafts was a door hanging. It was a preprinted plate, fall leaves and pumpkins were glued on and a scratch off dangle leaf. Easy and stunning. Hand sanitizer, masks and social distancing.

With no visitation from volunteers’ Spiritual programs have become more important than ever. TV, radio and rosary CD cover our regular independent sources. Every other week myself and a Resident volunteer provide a church service. No communion, but we have an altar, spiritual stories, Bible passages, prayers, and hymns.  The Resident’s look forward to it. Hand sanitizer, masks and social distancing.

I hope this has been helpful. There is so much more to share, and I would love to hear your ideas and pointers too. If you want to learn more about our activities at Southern Hills, please reach out to me.