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How to Avoid an "Activity Crash and Burn" - by M. Celeste Chase, AC-BC, ACC, CDP,CMOCP - ActivityDirector.org

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Best Laid Plans
by M. Celeste Chase, AC-BC, ACC, CDP, CMDCP
A best-laid plan refers to when things gone awry or simply stated, something that has not turned out as well as one initially had hoped for. The expression the best-laid plan carries the implication that one should not expect everything to always turn out as planned. Easier said than done… right?

The idea that no matter how much thought or pre-planning gets devoted towards a certain task or endeavor and it may still turn out unsuccessful is disheartening to say the least.  That said, when things do not go as expected, it is completely normal to feel as though someone has just taken a bit of a bite out of your self-confidence.

Such is the scenario when the appropriate time has been dedicated to review resident assessments, history, clinical status and pursuits of interest to develop the perfect mix of calendar events for your resident. Surprisingly and low and behold – your resident does not want to participate in the event. In fact, your resident very unapologetically lets you know that your event was a total flop. Adding salt to the wound, that is the same resident initially expressed an interest and requested the event to begin with! Yikes yet again!
It Happens
Without a doubt, many of us if not all of us in this field have been there. Sincerely and earnestly planning what we believe to be on target “person centered” pursuits of interest. Only to have the very same residents who had asked for the program to flat out reject it.

So what happens when those “best laid plans” go off the rails and turn out all wrong! When your plans hit the fan, you can either fuss about it and go negative or choose to take the opportunity to cultivate an optimistic viewpoint. How it that done anyways? It’s a question of rolling with the punches – and acquiring the ability to remain flexible – not take the rejection personally – and lastly, learning from the experience.

“Adversity can - make you stronger!” Why? Humans have the capacity and the determination to avoid the same outcome previously experienced. Resiliency is a gift and one that we all posses - it’s time to pull up those boot straps ladies and gents and look at the process to find out why that well planned event was not well received by your resident.
Resident Planning Committee
Make it your mission to involve the residents in planning the calendar every time a new one needs to be created. The consistent and routine resident participation in planning events will lead to a number of great benefits for both you the professional and the residents you serve.

Start the process by searching for two residents that seem excited about contributing ideas for calendar events. These two residents will become your “volunteer ambassadors”. These “ambassadors” should be good communicators, warm and friendly residents willing to personally visit fellow residents to talk about all the ways he/she can contribute to facility programming and thereby adding their valued ideas. This “buddy resident” system is a successful approach for both new and existing residents.

New Residents
Consider that newbie residents may be shy and undecided about starting interactions with the large existing (perhaps scary) group of residents. When the new resident is approached by two friendly, outgoing and happy residents; he/she may find it less intimidating and more likely open to be part of the Resident Planning Committee.

Existing Residents
“Buddy resident” system makes for great ambassadors to help current residents as well. The pair can help to revitalize interest and help fellow residents to feel valued once again. It just takes a couple of energetic residents to give a gentle nudge now and then.
Committee Structure and Process
If you have more than one resident interested in chairing the committee, ask residents to assume the resident chair position on a rotation bases. This gives everyone that desires to do so a turn and gives a well deserved break to those that have previously served as chair.

Write the resident ideas for events on a white board – keep them up on the white board till the next meeting. Why?  
1) This allows you to erase events after they have been put on the calendar.  Thus, you can keep adding and erasing as you are able to schedule them in any given month. Additionally, this is a great visual for the resident to see his/her ideas actively go from the white board to the calendar and gives the resident a sense of achievement.

2) Visually displays what the Resident Planning Committee has created for all to see. This is particularly useful for memory impaired residents as they can become agitated or upset when they do not like or recognize a program idea even though they initially suggested it.
NOTE: Memory issues are the commonly seen contributor relating to event rejection and refusal because the resident does not recognize what they asked for in the previous moments.

3) Residents can be fearful that their ideas may not be well liked by others. Create an “anonymous “idea box” to keep the identities of those that would not otherwise give up what they secretly want you to add to facility programming.

Memory impaired residents may perhaps make up the majority of the group you serve. When a program event is rejected by this group, whether it was initially the residents’ idea or not, do not take it personally. Remind yourself that his/her behavior is a product of related memory issues. The most effective response for you as a professional is to quickly “redirect” your resident to something else to prevent further emotional or behavioral escalation.
Know Your Audience
Knowing who your audience means that you can adapt the content of your presentation to address the main concerns of your audience. Professionals leading a group of seniors regardless of the group size must know and understand why the group wants to be present, what motivates the group, and whether you are matching your information to their level of understanding and interests.  It’s an ongoing day to day learning experience for the Activity Professional and we all know that you have the knowledge and the skills – Remember that you got this!

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. The saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley.”
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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