Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

A Guide to Surviving Quarantine for the Active Ager

GettyImages-5791348582020 has become a year to remember and maybe not in a good way, but instead on focusing on our limitations, lets focus on what we can do. Here is your guide to surviving quarantine:

  1. Get outside and get some vitamin D! You may have heard that UV light kills the COVID-19 virus, so in a sense, going outside can be safer than visiting indoor public places. It is also more difficult for the virus to spread with increased ventilation, and what better ventilation is there than being outside? Not that you need another reason to get outside, but some doctors believe that individuals with vitamin D deficiency are more likely to contract and experience more adverse side effects from the virus. While the jury is still out on how big of an impact vitamin D deficiency makes on COVID-19, vitamin D plays a vital role in your immune system as well as supporting bone health, muscle function, your gut microbiome and more.
  2. Find ways to socialize, safely. The last thing you need right now is a reminder to “social distance” but here it is anyway. Virtual gatherings are a safe and easy way to keep in touch with loved ones. “Meeting” online can also help you expand on your relationship with the ones you care about. When I’m virtually “hanging out” with friends, we often play games and I’ve been able to learn new things about my friends, like how competitive some of them are or new likes and dislikes. Virtual gatherings are also a great way for you to connect with grandkids, grandnieces or grandnephews.
  3. Eat right and exercise. If you weren’t doing this before, I really hope you are considering it now. Eating nutritious meals and exercising regularly can help keep your body in tip top shape but can also aid in fighting off any colds or flus. Exercise is also a great way to release any mental stress, which let’s be honest, we are all a little tightly wound right now. Lastly, it will give you something to do! If you are like me and have been somewhat bored sitting at home, try a new online group fitness class, NIFS has plenty to go around. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise weekly.
  4. Catch some ZZZ’s. If there is one thing you can put your new extra time towards, its sleep. Sleeping helps your body recover and keeps your immune system running efficiently. If you are someone who struggles with getting a full eight hours, try flipping off any screens 1 hour before bedtime, avoid meals or snacking 2 hours before bed and caffeine 6 hours before bed. Try to follow a nightly routine, maybe with some meditation or deep breathing exercises. Creating a habit for sleep teaches your body to relax and gets you ready for a restful night.

What are you doing to stay healthy during the pandemic?

Topics: senior wellness programs quarantine

Why we can quit following health observances in senior living?

September is a busy month with national health observances which are geared to bring awareness and resources to individuals or caregivers for issues ranging from childhood obesity to senior independence and just about every chronic health condition in between. For many, the health observance may be one of the only times during the year in which they have access to these additional resources.

If you think about it, older adults who reside in senior living communities have access to these types of resources every single day. As NIFS partners with senior living communities across the country in managing their fitness programs, we see firsthand the impact that the vibrant lifestyle has on enhancing the lives of seniors. The scope of resources from health services to socialization to robust physical activity programs help seniors thrive and are built into the lifestyle 365 days per year opposed to a week or month-long health campaign. It’s not just about increasing awareness, the lifestyle provides the tools and resources for older adults to effectively manage their health and maintain their independence. We witness minds put at ease from the convenient access to exceptional dining, medical care and amenities and lives lived to their fullest.

GettyImages-1029344612Let’s look at some examples for September’s health observances that align with the lifestyle that residents in senior living communities have at their fingertips every single day:

  • Healthy Aging Month: well that’s a gimme with the month-long focus on the positive aspects of growing older and bringing inspiration to improving the physical, social, mental, and financial well-being of those 45+. These types of enrichment opportunities fill the lifestyle calendars every single month in senior living communities.
  • National Yoga Awareness Month: brings awareness to the benefits of yoga and its attributes in living a healthy lifestyle. Yoga classes are a senior living staple on the group fitness calendar as the research behind the gentle poses and stretches bring flexibility, strength and balance gains to the participants as well as enhancing the mind/body connection.
  • National Fall Prevention Week: We know that fall prevention is a year-round priority for seniors and NIFS Balance Redefined program brings a comprehensive service model of balance training and fall prevention programming to the communities we serve. Balance classes and rehab departments are commonplace services within senior living.

Just like any industry, some senior living communities have an edge with the scope of amenities and quality of services available to their residents. If you are exploring how a senior living community measures up in fulfilling these lifestyle goals, ask these questions:

  • If you are motivated to become more physically active, does the community have a fitness center with professional staffing and a robust service model of classes, appointments, and programs? Most communities have a fitness center, but the staffing makes all the difference!
  • If you are interested in gaining more socialization, how do the activities, outings, and dining experiences align with your personal passions and interests? How many new offerings are on the calendar each month to keep things fresh?
  • If you are looking for intellectual enrichment, how do the programs engage participants and spark conversation?  There is a difference in the lifelong opportunities available between attending “sit and listen lectures” and events that truly foster new life experiences.

Of course we support initiatives that help connect people with additional resources for any health condition they or a loved one might be experiencing and the national health observances do a nice job with that. For more information on other observances, check out this link from the US Department of Health and Human Services. In closing, we’ll consider the lifestyle available to residents within senior living communities a yearlong health observance for the best of both worlds.

How we improved an already successful fitness program

Topics: senior wellness programs activities calendar senior living

A Well Rounded Self-Care Routine

With extra time at home, are you looking for ways to enrich your day to day life? Practicing self-care allows you to use this time in social isolation to take care of yourself and help reduce stress you might have over our current situation.

Self-Care is the practice of taking deliberate action to encourage growth or maintain one’s own health. This can be your physical, mental, or emotional health, or any combination thereof! Some basic categories to use in practicing your self-care are eating, sleeping, socializing, exercising, and stimulating your mind. All of these are important to your health, but there are many ways of addressing them.

Practicing self-care by focusing on eating can look like these:

  • consulting a Registered Dietician to make sure that your specific food needs are being met while you’re at home
  • taking the time to make your favorite meal or trying out a new healthy smoothie recipe
  • personally, I like to make sure I drink enough water every day by slicing fruit and having flavored water whenever I want

Focusing on sleep can mean:

  • creating a consistent bedtime routine
  • try a face mask and a calming cup of tea to relax before bed
  • simply prioritize getting enough sleep each night, roughly 8 hours is a good goal

GettyImages-1137196547 (1)Socializing might look different now than it used to, but you can still enjoy time with others!

  • Our phones and computers allow us to text, call, and even video chat with people around the world.
  • Try sending cards and letters in the mail. Do you have beautiful stationery and cards that have been sitting around? Now is the time to send them to someone and spread joy!

We all know exercise is important for more than just your physical health.

  • if you enjoy spending time outside, try taking a walk!
  • try yoga outdoors or in your own home
  • look for online exercise options like written workouts or classes that you can follow along with

Mental stimulation can look very different for everyone.

  • meditation, journaling, and painting are all great options
  • you can enjoy reading books or maybe try joining an online book club
  • brain teasers, crossword puzzles, and online trivia competitions are great options
  • include meditation or a daily Bible study in your routine

Many self-care options cover more than one of these categories. Drawing a nice bath with scented candles after exercising can help you relax before bed and wrap up a hard workout. Baking a treat and delivering it to a neighbor provides you mental stimulation and some socialization while giving your neighbor a nice surprise! Make today special by focusing on yourself and practicing self-care to preserve and promote your health in a way that works for you.

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Topics: senior wellness programs senior living communities

Lives Enriched through NIFS Legacy Program

Legacy photo-1In February, you may have read about NIFS Legacy Program which was run at a number of our senior living client sites across the country. Many fitness centers were considering programs to promote cardiovascular health for Heart Health Month and this initiative had its own way of tugging at the heart strings. As I was reviewing the monthly reports that our staff were submitting highlighting their program offerings and participation in the month of February, I was touched by this quote from our Wellness Director, Candace Montgomery, at The Chesapeake in Newport News, Virginia, a LifeSpire of Virginia community. NIFS has been partnered with LifeSpire since 2016 to manage their Vibrance program across three of their communities. As you read below, you’ll understand how the resident response to this program exemplifies how LifeSpire is committed to creating joy, purpose, growth, and community in daily living for their residents and we are honored to help create these experiences.

“We took part in NIFS Legacy Project which was a huge success for our Independent Living, Assisted Living and Healthcare residents with 74 participants. It was very interesting learning about residents lives and memories that they jotted down during this project. This project was also very touching for many residents who live in Independent Living but have spouses in Healthcare. One resident in particular came to our fitness office in tears of joy about the heartwarming conversations she had with her husband in Healthcare regarding their life and their children and all of the happy memories that occurred. This is truly what the Legacy Project was all about!”  - Candace Montgomery, NIFS Wellness Director

Candace is absolutely right. That IS what it’s all about and I see and feel so much from reading her summary.

  • I see a compassionate and creative wellness professional who values the stories that her residents have to share and a team-oriented approach that was needed to make this program a success.
  • I see 74 residents across all continuums of care participating in a program that gives them purpose and warms their hearts (all of our hearts frankly).
  • I see a couple reminiscing about the beautiful life they continue to share because they are receiving the care and support they need in a nurturing environment.
  • And I see family members receiving a keepsake that will be cherished for generations to come.

All four of these bullets shine a spotlight on the impact that quality wellness programs can have on your staff, residents, and their families; all were enriched by this program.

While many know us as a fitness management company, our staff are regularly offering holistic programs of this nature to support the overall well-being of the residents we serve. In addition, we strive to bridge programs and services throughout the continuums of care to benefit all residents. Here are a few tips to help carry programs that are offered to your IL residents over to your licensed areas with a little creative planning and teamwork.

Thank you to Candace and the team at The Chesapeake for enriching lives of the residents in your community and for enriching us from afar with your story.

Is outsourcing fitness center management right for your community?

 

Topics: senior wellness senior wellness programs legacy

Why Spending Time Outdoors Is Good for Physical and Mental Wellness

GettyImages-1138813719 (1)If you’re looking to improve the overall happiness and well-being of your residents—and even yourself—try taking your offerings outside of the fitness center and straight into nature!

Many of our NIFS fitness staff members schedule outdoor activities as a key component of their wellness programming, when and where weather permits. Some of the most popular open-air activities we have offered include walking groups, hiking trips, snowshoeing, yoga classes, mindfulness and meditation events, recreational sports, gardening, and outdoor socials. Exercise-related health benefits are already widely acknowledged, but did you know that the additional advantages of immersing oneself in nature may far surpass exercise alone?

Let the Sun Shine In!

Sunlight can help boost your Vitamin D levels, which is essential in calcium absorption to keep bones healthy and strong. Those who aren’t getting enough Vitamin D are much more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, heart disease, depression, weight gain, Alzheimer’s, and a whole catalog of cancers. In addition, getting sufficient sunlight can aid in preventing type-2 diabetes and some autoimmune disorders.

Get Active

Physical activity typically increases as we spend more time in natural environments, and the two together help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls how the body responds when at rest. Not only does this provide a relaxing, calm feeling, but it also reduces resting blood pressure, strengthens immunity, and can help decrease the risk of developing chronic disease.

Just Being Outside Is Beneficial for Mental Health and Wellness

Not in the mood for a “workout”? That’s okay, too! You can still fight mental fatigue, tension, and stress by simply being in nature. A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that spending as little as 20 minutes either sitting or walking in nature was enough to significantly reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone commonly used as a stress marker. The greatest rate of reduction in cortisol levels was observed in those who spent between 20 and 30 minutes in green spaces.

Anxiety and depression, too, have been proven to be lessened by spending time in nature’s powerful restorative environments—so powerful, in fact, that researchers at Stanford University call time spent in nature a mental health prescription.

Mental health disorders can contribute to poor sleep, and poor sleep can equally contribute to mental health disorders. Not only can time spent in nature improve overall mental health, leading to better sleep, but it can also play a fundamental role in improving sleep patterns, leading to better mental health. Sleep patterns are intrinsically regulated by circadian rhythms—this is commonly referred to as the body’s internal clock—which is directly tied to the sun’s schedule. Spending too much time in the absence of natural light, or in the presence of artificial light, can alter a person’s circadian rhythm and disrupt sleep patterns. Lucky for us, this balance is easily restored by getting back to nature and spending time outside.

Are you taking advantage of all that nature has to offer and sharing it with everyone you know?

NIFS staff love helping create Active Adventures with the communities where we help do wellness better.  Click below to see if outsourcing and having a vendor partner with you is a right fit!

Is outsourcing fitness center management right for your community?

Topics: disease prevention senior wellness programs bone density emotional wellness depression vitamins anxiety nifs staff nature outdoor exercise

What's Missing From Your Resident Fitness Program and How To Fix It

NIFS | Senior Group Fitness

I hear from a lot of leadership in senior living communities who know that there's more that could be done with their resident exercise program, but they aren't sure how to get their staff to ramp things up. If you find yourself in this situation, check out the list below for common challenges and opportunities to do better for your residents.

Our participation is lower than it should be.

There are a few reasons that participation in your fitness program might run lower than it should.  The first thing to determine is whether you have reliable data about who is participating. When we  start working with a community, we often learn that they may have total (or estimated) counts for group fitness class participation and that's the end of their program data.  

  • Start by tracking participation per resident. You'll have more reliable information about who is participating, how frequently they attend, and what they participate in. You'll also gain knowledge about who isn't coming to the fitness center and/or classes.
  • If your staff can deliver on individual services for residents, add fitness and balance testing along with exercise prescriptions to provide residents who aren't participating with the support they need to feel safe and inspired to begin an exercise program.

[Read More: 4 Strategies to Engage More Residents in Your Exercise Program]

Our group fitness class calendar needs a do-over.

It's common for the group fitness class calendar to get set on autopilot without critical evaluation of what needs to be updated.

  • Start by using the participation data to figure out which classes really deserve a spot on your calendar.
  • The balance classes our staff teach in our client communities are by far the most popular format. If you don't have dedicated balance training classes on the calendar, add them now. It's not enough to have balance training mixed in with a strength class or another blended format.
  • Carefully consider class descriptions; how you word group fitness opportunities for residents can make a big difference in what resonates with a previously inactive audience.

We need to be offering more fun programs.

Creating fun and inspiring programs to invite more participation in the fitness center is one of the best parts of the job! It's really central to how our staff are supporting residents in the client fitness centers we manage. Consider that engaging programs should be more than just fun; they should be built strategically to meet a specific goal. For example, NIFS Fitness Freeze program was a solid solution to combat the traditional fitness center visit decline we see in December each year. Or, think more holistically about Active Aging Week and use National Senior Health and Fitness Day to offer non-traditional options for physical activity.

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If you're committed to keeping your fitness staff in house, then they need some support to start improving what they're offering your residents. Our eBook on how to turn your fitness center from vacant to vibrant is a great next step.

Take your fitness center from vacant to vibrant >

Topics: senior wellness programs senior fitness group fitness for seniors fitness for seniors

Senior Living Activities: Changing the Name or Changing the Notion

I read a blog recently on the Eden Alternative website about the power of language, in which the author quoted Alan A. Watts: “the menu is not the meal.” She was outlining her thoughts about words like “elder,” and “care partner,” and “home”—an important discussion! But the blog also got me thinking (as a good blog should) about lifestyle programming in communities. 

What If the Activities Director Was Called Something Else?

In the last five years, the senior living industry has started to make a title shift away from Activities Director and toward alternatives like Lifestyle Director, Life Enrichment Director, and Program and Events Director. Yet, this subtle shift in position naming, though necessary, is insufficient to make a true paradigm shift in how we support the elders who choose to reside in a senior living community. Changing the name is not the same as changing the notion.

I think the senior living industry as a whole is feeling a nudge (maybe it’s a push) toward doing better for our clientele. Consider the CCRC NameStorm from LeadingAge. The goal was to build a new potential name for Continuing Care Retirement Communities that would resonate with current and future buyers for this kind of product.

The idea about changing your activities department to your life enrichment department is the same: build something that resonates with your market. Still, as the Alan A. Watts quote hits home perfectly, simply changing the name is not enough. You can’t just create new name badges, update the job title on the position descriptions, order new business cards, and call it done. It’s not enough to simply change the name; we have to also (or at least) change the notion, the idea, of what activities can become in senior living. 

In fact, I would posit that you could actually keep the “activities department” if the staff are genuinely focused on building a better lifestyle for each resident. If they understand the personal passions, interests, desires, limitations, and fears of the members and provided “activities” that truly engaged those desires, the name “activities department” works just fine. 

But if your life enrichment department is still focused on filling the calendar to simply entertain residents, they are functioning the same way they were when you called them “Activities.” When they’re taking orders from a vocal minority of residents to drive largely homogeneous activities each month, they’re doing what they’ve always done, regardless of the name change.

Three Ways to Turn Activities into Life Enrichment

senior_group_ThinkstockPhotos-528133531

So how do we start to make that shift, away from the same old filling-the-calendar senior living activities to facilitating life-enriching opportunities that allow the residents to live the lives they want to live? Here are three ways to start looking beneath the surface of your calendar to cultivate meaningful experiences for your participants.

  1. Get to know your customer. How well do you really know the members of your community? Sure, you know names, and there are “regulars” you know better than most. But how well do you know where they came from and what makes them tick? Can you get information from the sales staff discovery process to start building a profile on each member? What questions do you need answered about each resident that could be folded into the discovery process so that newly moved-in members don’t feel like they’re being poked and prodded to provide you with answers? How can you use the intel you get to start building experiences for each resident?
  2. Get creative with your budget. Budgets are what they are, and changing the name of your department isn’t going to suddenly give you unlimited funds. Yet, if you’re listening to your residents, and understanding how they want to live your in community, you may find that helping them accomplish just that does not require additional FTEs or operating funds. Sometimes pairing folks with common interests can allow an organic opportunity to form without costing the community a thing. For example, suppose, through discovery, you learn that you have four residents who love to play chess and who are passionate about teaching others to play. Once you connect those four members and help them determine times to establish a “club,” or ways to connect with a local after-school program to teach the game they love, you’re on your way to fulfilling a social, intellectual, and vocational pursuit for your members. 
  3. Get familiar with the numbers. If you’re in the business of filling calendars, there’s no reason to gather data. You can see from the calendar that it’s full. But if you are focused on building purposeful programming that allows participants to live more full lives, I suggest you start to get a handle on whether your efforts are making an impact. For example, many of your residents may still be working. How does your 10am group fitness class resonate for them? Does it fit their schedules? I’ve heard a lot of directors say that no one will do activities (except the theatre or related events) after 4pm, so they don’t program anything after 4pm. Do you know that because of what happened historically, or do you know that because you know your members and you know the data?

If you agree with these ideas conceptually but you aren't sure how to move forward with them in your organization, let's connect.  We offer a free 30 minute consultation, no obligation.  I'd love to talk about what you see in the future for your community and then work with you on some actionable steps to get there.  

Find out more about a free consulting session with NIFS >

Topics: CCRC senior wellness programs data collection senior living communities program planning activities enrichment

Tips for Starting Balance Training in Senior Fitness

Balanced_older_womanYou might know that some of the basic elements your senior fitness workout program should include are weight training, cardio activities, and as much flexibility as possible. One element that needs special attention among the senior population is balance training. Training for balance has been considered a fourth recommendation from many organizations, and there has been a much bigger emphasis on balance training in senior wellness programs in recent years.

With balance training now a part of a strong recommendation for your daily workout routine, where do you start? What is balance training? These questions are pretty common among seniors, and the perfect place to start is with training. 

Following are some tips for starting and maintaining your new balance program—that is, if you have not already been working on balance.

Start with Assistance

Even if you feel like you are pretty surefooted, start light and use something to assist with your balance activities. Anytime you work balance, you are using muscles in your body that may cause your balance to become shaky. Once you are more acclimated to the balance activities and you are comfortable with progressing, try slowly releasing the assisting device or object to get more challenge from your balance activities.

Be Consistent

Anytime you start an exercise program, consistency will be important. The same rule applies here. When working on your balance, maintaining a three-day-per-week or five-day-per-week schedule will add up in no time. Consistency will train your mind, body, and muscles to improve your balance over time.

Modify and Vary Your Program

Again, when working on balance, be cautious with your modifications. Start with light modifications and progress with different activities. For a good list of modifications and additional balance exercises you can add to your balance program, click here.

Learn to Scale When Needed

Scaling a workout is something that many do, and when working with seniors, scaling is important. When you scale your workout, you are essentially changing something to make it more individualized. In other words, if standing on one foot is too easy for you when holding on to a sturdy chair, you should scale, if appropriate, by trying a single-leg stand without holding on to the chair.

Select Your Exercises

Starting your program should be slow. Start with about one or two balance exercises and progress as you feel necessary. Starting slow will progress you into a good program, but it will also help you take it slow (just like in other aspects of your training). When you start your balance program, hold your balance activities for about 20 to 30 seconds in each position and aim to complete about two or three sets. For a good amount of exercises and demos, consider the information here to help get you started on new balance training exercises.

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If you have any additional tips that worked well when you started a balance program, please leave some helpful hints in the comments below. If you found some things to work and others to not, we would like to hear your experiences.

Interested in how we provide balance training for seniors?  Check out our whitepaper, Advanced Balance Training Programs for CCRC Fitness Center by clicking below.

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Topics: senior wellness programs balance senior fitness balance training exercise for elderly

What to Do When Traditional Senior Living Activities Fall Short

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed recently and stumbled across a posting for a Life Enrichment Director with a prominent senior living provider. The title was intriguing enough—I’m always curious about what’s happening in the area of wellness and lifestyle in senior living—so I clicked on the link, taking me to the job posting. What I read on the posting was enough to make me hang my head.

senior_ladiesWithout getting into detail, I’ll tell you that a primary responsibility for the position was to “create pleasant days.” Now, that requirement was in quotes on the posting, which makes me think it’s a branded program that’s a hallmark for the organization. And to be clear, the posting was for a Life Enrichment Director in a memory care community. So I can appreciate the need for programming to minimize participants’ agitation and anxiety, and to maximize the enjoyment of their days. Still, the idea of programming around building pleasant days for residents (in any level of care) struck me as wildly patronizing and profoundly off base.

Folks, we are doing an enormous disservice to the adults in our communities (in any area of the community) if our primary focus is to make their days nice. The residents are living, not passing life by sitting in a rocking chair on your porch. Your Life Enrichment Director shouldn’t be facilitating passive and placating activities unless that’s what the participant wants. 

The Need for More Engaging Senior Living Activities and Programs

Most of the amazing older adults I’ve met as I’ve traveled to various communities are full of life, eager to connect, and interested in learning new things. We have got to do lifestyle programming better than building pleasant lives for them. To be fair, a lot of organizations are succeeding at implementing creative, active, and engaging programs for their members. For example, Mather Lifeway’s café concept provides for fabulous connections with peers in the midst of unique and lively programs. 

However, in many cases, what I see in communities is a calendar full of activities where 90 percent of what’s listed are recurring events like cards, exercise classes, arts/crafts groups, religious services, shopping trips, and coffee or happy hours. The remaining 10 percent are unique to the month and are typically grouped into musical offerings, lectures, and excursions to the theatre or opera. From a maintaining status quo standpoint, there is nothing wrong with that calendar. Just don’t confuse it with one that is built to engage more than the 20 percent of your residents who participate in existing programs. And don’t consider that calendar creative and interesting simply because there’s no white space left to pack in more activities. 

Building a Better Activities Calendar

If you’re interested in building a better activities (or life enrichment, or wellness…) calendar and program, here are some starting points for consideration:

  • Evaluate what needs to change about your current mentality on programming for your members. If your job is to provide lots of opportunities to keep residents busy, it’s time to rethink the job. Residents don’t want to be kept busy; toddlers need to be kept busy. Building a successful and person-centered programming schedule is about inviting residents to engage in the lifestyle they want—the lifestyle that’s driven by their passions and interests.
  • Ask what success looks like for any given program. (Hint: the answer is quantifiable and isn’t measured by how satisfied the residents look.) Then establish your programming goals and figure out how to measure them. Take what you learn from that evaluation and do better with the next program.
  • Understand what drives your residents, and keep track of that information. Ask them what they’re passionate about and what makes them get out of bed in the morning. If you don’t have programming that speaks to those interests, figure out how to support them anyway (for example, see how one community supported an interest in golf). When you have an inventory on all the members, you have a tool to inform what types of programs you should start building and which residents you need to tap to be champions for the newest offering.

It’s time to stop busying yourself and your residents with filled-to-the-brim calendars that lack intention and invitation. Start actually building Life Enrichment by getting to know what motivates your members and build your creative and strategic (and dare I say “edgy”) program around your people, not their pleasant days.

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Topics: senior wellness programs engagement senior living community program planning program evaluation

Active Aging: “We All Need to Be Needed”,Emotional Wellness and Dementia

When creating senior wellness programs, we often focus on the physical realm of wellness. I would like to take some time to talk about emotional wellness. In particular, I want to get into the emotional wellness of our residents with various forms of dementia. 

All too often when someone begins to feel the effects of some form of cognitive loss, they begin to pull away. At first it is out of embarrassment over not being able to recall a friend’s name immediately or the name of a common object, or the frustration as they lose the concept of time and place. 

senior_careTaking Care of Someone with Cognitive Loss

Imagine if you had the knowledge that you were no longer able to follow a conversation with a group of people and be able to equally contribute to that conversation. Wouldn’t that lead you to draw away from your friends and family to save yourself from such an embarrassment? All our youthful years we identify ourselves by what we do or what we know. I’m an athlete, a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, and so on and so on. Wouldn’t this also lead you to be depressed if you could no longer identify yourself? 

What if we as the caregivers could do more than take care of someone with dementia? Do more than shower and dress and prop them up somewhere. Those of us in wellness tend not to be the ones to deal with the hygiene portion of an individual’s care, so how can we contribute to their daily lives? The easiest and best way is time and attention. Depending on the stage of disease, there are many things that we can do to let our residents know they are still loved. 

It is easy to say, “Yeah, but I don’t have time. I teach classes and run programs and work with people individually and there is just not enough time in a day.” There is good news. It does not take a lot of time. Programs can be created to include spouses, friends and family members, or volunteers to help share the responsibility of time. These programs can be built to be held in short increments of time. The most important thing with any of these programs is to just remember to be with your residents. Not shuffle them from place to place or activity to activity. Take the time to truly be with them. Let them tell you a story; ask questions about their interests. Don’t try to control the conversation. Let it go wherever it may, just as you do when catching up with a good friend. 

Ideas for Emotional Wellness Programs

Here are a few ideas to include in a dementia program:

Music time: Sing-alongs, classical music, or music of their time. Music is the universal language understood all over the world and is the best trick up our sleeve.Story time: This is not time to read a story to your residents. This is time to listen to your residents’ stories. Pay no mind if that story switches tracks; just be there to listen to that story and contribute to a conversation that may come out of it. 

Current events breaks: Try to focus on some happy current events. 

The most important thing to remember is to live in the moment, because that is all someone with dementia has: a series of moments. I encourage anyone who potentially will be spending time with someone with dementia to either read the book or see the movie Still Alice by Lisa Genova. It is a profound story that will open your world to an amazingly deep understanding of an individual’s perspective of the need to be needed.

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Topics: senior wellness programs brain health dementia memory care mental health emotional wellness