The essential activity professional

The last week of January is Activity Professionals Week, which gives us a chance to shine a light on a group of people who work daily to improve the lives of residents at long-term healthcare facilities.

In our three Hillcrest Healthcare communities, activity teams work tirelessly to plan and implement activities that cater to the needs and tastes of the residents. These activities help provide structure and purpose – and usually come with plenty of laughs and smiles.

Activity professionals are important every day and have been especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic which limited visits, entertainment and activities from volunteers, family and friends. Our professionals stepped up to keep residents engaged during a very difficult time.

Beverly Park Place

Susan Smith, Beverly Park Place activity director

Beverly Park Place Administrator Donna Kelley gives us insight: “Activity associates are the keys to engaging our residents, ensuring that their psychosocial needs are met and that the activities stimulate their minds. During the pandemic, they have ensured that each resident had personal interaction and individualized activities. They’ve developed unique ideas and ways to engage and entertain the residents.”

The activity director at Beverly Park Place is Susan Smith, who shares: “We help make each day count and it is a blessing to each of us to see the smiles on the faces of the residents. We work to come up with creative ideas to keep them active and prevent depression and loneliness such as video calls, special snacks, bingo games, noodle ball, pet therapy, art therapy or just simply sitting down with a listening ear. I love getting to know about each resident – they have some amazing stories to share!”

West Hills

Toni LaBarba, West Hills activity director

“​When the residents are engaged in activities, whether in groups, independently, or one-on-one, it gives them purpose and the knowledge that they’re being cared for,” shares Toni LaBarba, ADC, activity director at West Hills. “​We take the time to get to know our residents, their likes and dislikes, what makes them happy and how to help them get engaged. We help our residents stay connected to their families and make sure they all know how important they are!”

The West Hills residents especially love crafts, jewelry making and playing bingo. Recently, they enjoyed a visit from Santa and getting to go see Christmas lights. Toni shares, “I love that I get to try to make a difference in our residents’ lives every day.”

The work of the activity teams does not go unnoticed. “The West Hills activity department has been instrumental in bringing residents to community activities, being creative in craft making, getting volunteers back in and coordinating trips such as going to see Christmas lights,” said Roger Parker, NHA, administrator at West Hills.

“Encouraging residents to participate in social events where they can meet and interact with others versus remaining in their rooms, is so important,” Roger continues. “Being socially active helps decrease depression and loneliness.”

Island Home

The residents at Island Home most enjoy Bible Study, hallway bingo, Friday theme parties and arts and crafts. Cheryl Weaver, ADPC is the activity director at Island Home. “One of the main activities that several of the residents truly enjoy is the daily group Bible study,” she shares. “We help residents learn and practice calming techniques and more to help them better deal with all of the emotions that have come from enduring the pandemic.”

Cheryl Weaver, Island Home activity director

The activities department further fosters positive vibes by encouraging residents and staff with various “calm and kindness” acts. 

The team has a roaming service cart stocked with games, puzzles and more that is taken to each residents’ rooms for them to pick what they want to do. “The implementation of the service cart has been a great addition to the activities program,” Cheryl adds.

Creative ideas are always flowing. “We’re happy that the rest of the associates pitch in to the fun as well. Staff participation has increased with dress-up days almost every Friday, a different themed party each week and outdoor events. We also do outdoor concerts, drive-by parades and even had an outdoor museum!”

Cheryl loves seeing the residents enjoy life, smile and socialize. “The patients have been courageous and have adjusted very well during the pandemic. We have always been like family, but COVID has brought us all even closer.”