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Activity Directors - The Unsung Hero of Long Term Care Facilities - APNCC.org Credentialling Center National Board Certification - N.A.P.T. Activitydirectoruniversity.org


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The Unsung Hero of Long Term Care Facilities
The COVID-19 pandemic has come in like a lion (through infection); ruthlessly and relentlessly devouring the physical well being of the individual from which this disease takes claim.

The other less recognized, less publicized, and profoundly less understood yet equally sinister devastation bestowed by this infection is the retaliatory affects of social isolation and other psychological stresses affecting our aging population living in nursing homes during this pandemic. In addition, the sudden onset of COVID-19 has unceremoniously and expeditiously eliminated the once familiar daily routines that residents have come to know and expect.
The Challenges  
The impact of current pandemic related stressors and social isolation cannot be overstated. Facilities have justifiably but abruptly ended group stimulation, social interactions and temporarily paused self-directed choices that have been deemed necessary to reduce high risk infection spread for facility residents and the staff.

Long Term Care Facilities’ residents suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves confined to their rooms without social dining, interest based group pursuits, and no longer allowed to have in-person family visits.

Emotional disruptions of such magnitude may perpetuate mental health conditions such as, post-traumatic stress (PTSD), depression, loneliness and anxiety that may lead to life-threatening status and failure to thrive. Highly elevated emotional stressors may be detrimental to the functioning of the individuals’ immune system. Additionally, elevated loneliness, anxiety, and unrelenting fears may further lead to a number of deleterious consequences, such as high blood pressure, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
The Unsung Heroes Claim Their Place
Amongst the tenacious and dedicated nurses, doctors, and therapists is a member of the Interdisciplinary Team that goes unnoticed. These healthcare professionals work day in and day out in the midst of this pandemic to support the emotional health of our elderly population living in Long Term Care facilities. These are the Long Term Care nursing home “Unsung Heroes” of the Covid-19 epidemic.

The nursing home Therapeutic Programming Professional takes responsibility for resident “engagement” and partners closely with the other IDT members in the continuum of care dedicated to delivering “whole health and wellness”. These professionals create facility programming intended to support the residents’ emotional well being which in turn, greatly helps to reduces imposed epidemic related stressors. Consequently, leading to better immunity and that is a “golden ticket” with unlimited value.

These professionals focus on the residents’ personal interests and individualized needs. They create the pathway for each unique resident so they may continue enjoying the same leisure quality of life interests which they had previously come to treasure during their lifetime. Supporting the residents’ choice to continue enjoying deep roots preferences allows them to continue being connected to their personal identity well into aging years.
The Spirit to Succeed
One can only imagine the immense challenges brought on by the pandemic social distancing and mask infection control practices or the spirit and tenacity these professionals must draw upon to support and maintain resident connectivity at a time when imposed limitations curtail even the best of those well laid out plans.  

These programs may help residents spend time constructively, thereby decreasing loneliness and anxiety while maintaining social distancing. In addition, these trained professionals collaborate with the clinical staff and therapists to utilize clinical & psychology approved therapeutic approaches.  

Here are several suggestions to help reduce social isolation and improve engagement with residents:
  • Non-group or solitary interventions, such as laughter therapy, horticultural therapy, and reminiscence therapy, can be more effective in reducing residents’ feelings of loneliness.
  • Staff have transformed into surrogate family members with frequent and more lengthy contacts. Have them wear photos and name tags on top of their PPE.
  • Regular video chats with family members facilitated by social work and/or therapeutic programming staff is essential.
  • Regular telehealth visits should be provided by doctors and other therapists.
  • Celebratory, fun, and interesting snacks, treats, and programming (e.g., music therapy) can be brought to the door, room, and bedside.
  • Drive-thru family visits to the facility can be set up, using masks and social distancing.
  • Offer in rooms stimulation via video and/or closed-circuit TV.
We must remember that ALL front line caregivers are true heroes, facing daily stress that can be overwhelming for the benefit of those they serve.
Heartfelt gratitude to every healthcare “Essential Personnel”!
Whether in Long Term Care or Hospital Critical Care, it cannot be overstated that family members and close friends lack adequate words, in any language, that will sufficiently convey the level of gratefulness and thankfulness to those devoted nurses, doctors and therapist and Therapeutic Programming Professionals that remain dedicated despite potential exposure and personal risks.
From each and everyone one of us!
Have a topic request or question for Celeste? Send them over to celestechase@activitydirector.org
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Activity Directors Network was founded in 1996 on the idea that we could help create elderly care that dramatically improved the lives of those we all serve. We envision facilities that feel like homes and that celebrate our resident’s individuality and allows them to live with dignity, purpose and joy. We believe the exchange of education and wisdom between the most talented teachers and passionate students is the way to make an impact. Each and every single one of you are the revolution that is changing everything. Thanks for being a part of The Network.
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