Remember, all seven days are created equal
For many of us, Monday to Friday represents our workweek. We look forward to the weekends for relaxing, family time, running errands or perhaps religious activities. Our weeks are fairly well defined with routine.
But for individuals with cognitive impairment who live in care facilities, the seven days of the week are no different from one day to another. Some people affected by Alzheimer’s disease or related disorder (AD/RD) may still find comfort in the familiarity of a church or synagogue activity during the weekend if this was a significant part of their lives.
I am never surprised when loved ones report disappointment in weekend activities in residences. Activity directors might only be hired to work from Monday to Friday. Activity and stimulation should not vary by day of the week. With families paying thousands of dollars every month for private residence care, the expectation of a full activity schedule seems reasonable.
I encourage families to study activity schedules when considering a residence. I will alert them to any noticeable slowdown in activities over the weekend. Weekends are less busy because families often visit or take loved ones out, but many of my clients are not so fortunate to have family living in Montreal or who do weekend visits. What then?
Small residences or personal care homes face more difficulty keeping a busy activity program because of the cost. Activities don’t have to be fancy and expensive. Many schools offer courses encouraging children to volunteer in the community. With a bit of effort and research, free or low-cost activities could be found. A staff person may have a calm, friendly pet to visit the residents. When clean laundry is returned to the room, the individual could be asked to assist in placing items in drawers. Having residents assist with such things as folding towels, placing napkins on the dinner table or sitting in the garden listening to Paul Anka tapes can be more worthwhile than hiring someone to organize an art class. Having residents gather around the television to watch a program that they are unable to follow is a waste of time and will result in chair sleeping. However, if there is a lively musical movie with a leader to encourage singing, then we have an interesting activity.
When visiting a residence, don’t get wooed by activity stations and rooms that will be part of the tour. Instead, take note of the use of these areas: Are residents playing pool, using the computers, in the library, busying themselves with a memory station? Is there a “snoozalen room” (a soothing and stimulating environment adjusted to individual needs) and is it being used? Are staff trained on how to make use of this type of therapy? After bringing a family to tour large residence, the daughter asked me where the 100-plus residents were hiding, since not one person was to be found in any activity room.
Families need to be less judgmental about the activities they find their loved ones engaged in. Tossing around a balloon serves many purposes and should not be looked at as a child’s play. Participants enjoy this game, stay alert and move around trying to hit the balloon. Observers will hear laughter and shouts of joy. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Every day should include activities for cognitive-impaired individuals.
Send questions or comments to b.sandler@ sympatico.ca and may be used in future articles.