Activity Professionals: Working with Heart, Purpose, and Person-Centered Passion

Activity professionals, whether activity directors or CTRS recreational therapists, are about so much more than games and arts & craft programs. These team members always have made significant contributions to helping long-term care residents who are frail and often experiencing loneliness, boredom, and helplessness. During the pandemic, however, this role has been indispensable and more challenging. That is why we are pleased to honor these heroes and the National Association of Activity Professionals (NAAP) during Activity Professionals Week, January 24-30.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and isolation have contributed to loneliness, weight loss, and depression. It has become obvious that such restrictions should balance infection control with quality of life. The activity professionals understand this. They know that even the frailest resident benefits from a personalized, one-to-one, activity tailored to their psychosocial needs, particularly during these challenging times.  

Rosie’s Story

She was the kind of nursing home resident everyone enjoyed. Every day, she would sit in the front lobby, welcoming visitors, and reading her daily paper. All of this changed after she suffered a stroke. She was paralyzed on her right side and was struggling to regain her speech and swallowing abilities. When she returned to our nursing home after a hospital stay, PT, OT, and speech were ordered. Because she was severely frail, her therapy sessions were quite short and exhausting. 

After two weeks restorative therapy was stopped for lack of progress, and maintenance therapy began. The facility’s activity professionals took over, developing a program to address her psychosocial needs, tailored to her previous preferences. Twice a day she was scheduled for a recreational therapy session for activities such as sitting in the front lobby, accompanied by the therapy aide, and listening to the newspaper read to her. Input from the family contributed to a music program, and a feeding aide helped here at mealtimes. While Rosie continued to decline and died a month after her return from the hospital, these activities filled her final days with purpose, comfort, joy, and companionship. 

A Thank You from Rosie’s Daughter:

 “You made the last month of Mom’s life as comfortable and happy as possible. She was so grateful for the frequent contact, the music, listening to someone read the newspaper, and just the quiet times when someone sat by her bed and held her hand. Thank you.”

From the Patient Pattern team, we say thank you to our activity professional colleagues and NAAP. We are grateful for all you do.