Sunday, September 8, 2013, marked the beginning of National Assisted Living Week 2013. This week happens every year, and assisted living communities across the U.S. have jam-packed calendars filled with fun events and activities for residents. But it's also a week during which other providers take time to recognize the value the assisted living industry adds to the senior living continuum of care.
This year's theme is "Homemade Happiness," so we expect to see lots of hand-crafted memory-making events across the country. It's about the special connection that develops between residents, senior community staff, and families. The goal of National Assisted Living Week is to recognize those little efforts -- the small things, the things that on the surface seem insignificant yet make the biggest difference in the life of a senior each and every day. These are the things that turn a senior living community into a warm, loving and comforting home for hundreds of thousands of seniors across the U.S.
Many assisted living communities plan for this week all year long in order to bring a special, one-of-a-kind experience to each resident they so lovingly serve. The NCAL has put together a guide packed with ideas for activities and celebrations to recognize the efforts of staff and to help residents build more of those precious memories that will last a lifetime. Even if you're behind the planning curve for National Assisted Living Week, there's still time to put some fun stuff together, such as:
- Recognize a "Happiness Hero" each day of the week, awarding a deserving staff member who goes above and beyond to create a home-like atmosphere and bring joy to the faces of your residents. Or, give your residents small ribbons to pass out to the staff that makes their days a little brighter, and fill up a "Heroes Board" overflowing with recognition for good deeds.
- Make memories with homemade goods. With a "Homemade Happiness" theme, the cooking and craft possibilities are endless. Simple cooking tasks are actually ideal for residents with dementia, because it's a basic skill that's often retained even when concrete memories are gone. And, the process can bring feelings of happiness by activating deep memories, much like the effect familiar music has. Have a contest to choose the best jams, cookies, pies, ice cream, or whatever your community decides to make to evoke sweet memories from the past.
- Go crafty with an art show. Have your residents put together Happiness Boards with photos of friends and family, special events, or even magazine clippings that represent special moments in their lives. Art is a favorite pastime for many seniors, and the sensory experience of painting is pleasant even for those who aren't artsy by nature. Why not let your residents' inner creative genius out for a day and have a painting festival, culminating with an art show with prizes for the best homemade masterpieces.
- Don't forget the four-legged friends. Homemade Happiness isn't complete without recognizing every member of the family. Beloved four-legged family members are loyal servants to many seniors, providing companionship, easing stress and anxiety, reduce depression and just simply make live more fun. So how about a pet show? Include your community's resident canines and felines, invite residents' families to bring their pets, and invite the local shelter to bring some of their current furry friends in seek of homes. Display photos of your residents' most beloved furry friends from years passed and share stories. If you want to go big, make it a whole community event and invite the public for a pet extravaganza. You might just secure homes for a few local shelter animals while you're at it.
- Homemade applies to wellness, too. So get out and get moving with some fun senior fitness classes to show your residents how they can stay happy and healthy right at home. Have everyone share their best staying-in-shape strategies from their younger years.
Post by Angela Stringfellow
Image via AHCA/NCAL