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Why Activity Professionals are Essential

ESSENTIAL. We’ve heard that word so many times since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Essential means to be absolutely necessary or extremely important.


Hi, I’m Takeiah, a 5-year senior living Activity Professional (AP) vet. I am a member of many Activity Professional social groups on social media and a common theme that I’ve seen, even before the pandemic, is that AP’s across the world feel that their company/Administrators don’t give them the respect they deserve. That sparked the idea for me to write this piece.

Why is there even an AP role in the first place? We’re hired to keep the residents happy & NOT just call BINGO all day. In my experience, the respect for this role has grown over the last few years but there are still many people who don’t understand how essential AP’s truly are.

I would post on social media how my residents & I were out for lunch, shopping, or how the Patriots Point Museum was my office for the day. Many people assumed that because I went on weekly outings with my residents, that I had it made in the shade with the easiest job ever. Boy were they wrong!! Now they also said I had the best job ever & to this day that statement is definitely true. In the words of a former Activity Assistant of mine, it’s the “hardest job you’ve ever loved.” Shout out to you James, because that it so true.

Picture this: you work with seniors & it’s time to take them for an outing. Most, if not all, probably have some sort of cognitive impairment (keep that in mind as I walk you through this). Listed below are the following steps we take when it’s Outing Day.

-Drive the bus to the designated pick up area

-Notify necessary team members which residents will be going on the outing, notify kitchen staff if they will be eating lunch offsite

-Gather residents and the staff member who will accompany you (praying to Sweet Baby Jesus that your community allows & requires for a staff member to tag along to assist)

-Safely load all residents onto bus

-Load all necessary equipment (walker, wheelchairs, etc.)

-Safely operating bus and transporting residents to destination

-Arrive at destination & safely unload all residents and their equipment/walking devices

-Ensuring that ALL residents stay nearby and don’t wander off (that’s a task in itself)

-Ensure they each are enjoying themselves while on the outing

-Safely get everyone back to bus to load for the trip home

-Load up all equipment

-Safely transport back to the community

-Safely unload everyone and their equipment

-Thank your caregiver for assisting you

-Park the bus

-Have a moment of silence & a deep sigh of relief that you made it back to the community safely

That’s 16 steps that AP’s do each week (most communities require an outing of some sort once a week) when going out for an outing. Now, I live in South Carolina and the heat and humidity can be INSANE. Try throwing in the heat/humidity or sporadic thunderstorm in on top of those 16 steps. WHEW!

There have been times where I’ve been at a community and the DON/Nurse Supervisor said that there wasn’t enough staff to allow one of the CNA’s/Caregiver to go on the outing. Listen, there should ALWAYS be another person on that bus to assist. What if a resident has behaviors while on the bus? The driver, usually the AP, can’t turn around to engage with them. I challenge all Administrator’s and DON’s across the nation, to assist their Activities team on an outing & I mean not just a scenic ride. An outing where they have to get on/off the bus.

Enough rambling about outings.

No matter how many Nurses, CNA’s, or Therapists the residents interact with and have great relationships with, they almost ALWAYS know the Activities team. I’ve began to appreciate being greeted by a resident saying, “so what’re we going to do today?” or “whatcha got planned for us?” Nine times out of ten, they can’t tell you my name or even what letter it begins with but they do know that I’m the “fun girl” and you may be saying to yourself “there’s no way those residents remember her if they have Dementia.” YES THEY DO!

We’ve all heard the quote by the wonderful Maya Angelou, “They may not remember what you said. They may not remember what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.” They look to us for happiness and joy.

The main focus of an Activity Professional position is to enrich the lives of our seniors while engaging them in meaningful programs. During my very first AP position, I had an AL resident say “Geez, you have the patience of Job. I don’t see how you put up with us” and it’s true, you have to have an enormous amount of patience while working in senior living. As an AP, you also have to be super creative.

Aside from creating joy for the residents, many people don’t realize that the Activity staff help keep the staff happy as well. We give them food from our cooking clubs and popcorn when doing our movie showings. We reintroduce them to their youth when they play balloon volleyball with us. They get to break free from the building for a bit while on an outing trying out a new restaurant they’ve never been to or experiencing something new at the museum, and so much more. We’re usually the ones who plan any sort of celebrations for those wacky national days for them to laugh and let loose from the daily stressors of work. We ALWAYS get dragged into helping with the Christmas party or staff recognition party. Most days, we just simply rub off our smile onto them.

Speaking of smiling. Activity Professionals aren’t allowed to come to work in a funk or have a bad day. EVERYONE in the building looks to us for the sunshine. So even on a bad day, we continue to create joy.

Switching gears: Have you ever had a new resident who was having a hard time adjusting and getting acclimated to their new environment? Or maybe the family wasn’t 100% honest about their loved one’s behaviors so now they’re in your building giving staff the hardest time ever. In those instances, has your leadership team always suggested activities as the solution to this “challenge”? Let me preface this by saying, we Activity Professionals are magical beings, this we know 😉 BUT that is not the solution EVERYTIME. From my experience, I just wish the DON’s and Administrators would look at all possible solutions. 1) Yes, engage them in activities but also question: Do they need a medication change? Something upset them and we just need to take a moment to simply talk to them – visit all options, just don’t assume that activities is the end all be all when dealing with a challenging resident. If it’s unexplained behaviors that the resident is displaying, then what happens when the AP brings them into the group activity and they disrupt the entire activity, now making other residents upset?

I said ALL of that to say this: please support your community Activity Professionals. <3


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