A broad range of programs is directed by the activities coordinator. A home certified for Medicare and Medicaid must have someone designated as an activities coordinator. The planning and implementation of activities comes from requests by residents, families, staff, and volunteers.
The activities are usually posted on a calendar of events that is available to each resident and also posted in large print where a wheelchair-bound resident can easily see it. Examples of a few such activities are:
Monthly birthday parties to which all residents are invited. Families and friends may be invited to participate. Volunteers often help to bring residents to the party and join in the fun.
Celebrations of various holidays, both secular and religious. Holidays are particularly difficult times for those away from their own homes, families, and friends. Valentine's Day, Halloween, Christmas, Hannukah, Easter, and Memorial Day are a few examples.
Musical events can be enjoyed actively or passively depending on the abilities of the residents. Many homes have sing-alongs in which the residents request their favorite songs and sing along with a leader. Again, the involvement of volunteers, families, and friends is crucial to the success of such a program. Sometimes concerts are given by a church or school group or friend of the nursing home. Hopefully, the public is invited to attend, for this allows the residents to provide a source of pleasure to their community.
Games foster both one-to-one relationships and group activity. Bingo is a favorite for many, but bridge, chess, and other games for smaller groups usually are available. Volunteers and families often are the ones to stimulate resident interest in a game and they may be able to help arrange suitable opponents. Contests sometimes are run with work games, and tournaments are arranged for bridge or game players.
Outdoor activities include gardening, cookouts, or just enjoying time in the sun alone or with a friend. Often the staff does not have the time to take the immobile residents outside. Family and volunteers are relied upon to make this possible.
Trips and tours to community events. Friends or volunteers may donate to the fund or sometimes the nursing home sets aside money. Transportation can be a problem for those in wheelchairs, but the activities coordinator usually can find volunteer drivers who are taught to cope with the special needs of disabled people. Trips outside the home offer variety and mental stimulation.
Nursing home newsletter. This is an especially valuable method of expression and uses resident talent that otherwise may lie idle. Poetry, history, birthdays, and resident and staff personality profiles are all topics that can be included.
Resident discussion groups. Sometimes a resident is an expert on a particular subject and will be the group leader. Other times a volunteer may offer to lead a discussion group. Topics may include current events, literature, and religion. The residents choose the topics and those interested attend.
Exercise, fun and physical fitness. Community leaders often volunteer to lead yoga or other exercise sessions. Even wheelchair-bound residents find satisfaction in exercising on a regular basis.
Books. Volunteers may run a book service, taking a cart of books to the room of immobile residents. There may be a central library or small bookcases on each floor. Talking books for the blind may be part of the service. Families, friends, and volunteers can buy, bring, and hand out books. Many people help with reading to those unable to see well.
Coffee or cocktail hours. Policies vary from home to home, but social hours provide a time of resident interaction. It is a particularly nice time for volunteers, family, and friends to join the residents.
Arts and crafts programs separate from occupational therapy frequently are offered by the activities coordinator. A volunteer, resident, or family member may lead this program.
Religious services. Every Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing home must, by federal regulation, provide the opportunity for residents to attend religious services of their preference. Many nursing homes welcome denominational groups to provide religious services in the home for those who wish to attend. Again, this often provides an opportunity for families and friends to join the resident in worship. The organization of such services is usually handled by the activities coordinator.