January 18, 2016

Passion and Compassion: Bringing Life to Activities

By Sharon Loveridge, Director of Recreational Programming, Leonard Florence Center
To truly understand the role of Activities in our centers, you must look beyond what the eye can see. It is not just about the fun and engaging group activities that we do – like bingo (yes, even bingo can be a blast!), musical concerts, art & crafts, etc. You must look at the connections we have with residents and see within the heart of an activities person.
To be in activities, you have to be passionate about helping people. Your concern must always be on the residents, and what you can do to improve their lives. I am constantly reminded of the fact that doing the smallest of things for the residents means so much.
Sometimes that means being an ear for someone who needs to talk. Other times it means playing chess, tying a shoe, or remembering what their favorite drink is when you go out on the restaurant trip. Or perhaps you are asked to move someone in their chair, or make copies for them, or even get them a cup of coffee. Other times, it means stroking a cheek, making that all important eye contact, or just sitting and putting an arm around someone’s shoulder to make them feel loved. Helping in whatever way possible is so important.
When I come through the doors of our center every day, I see my family. I see dozens of residents who have shared their lives with me. I have little jokes with many of them, just like I do with my family, and seeing them brightens my day. I am always looking for ways to enrich their lives and put a smile on their faces.
Recently, I was able to start a new program with one of the residents in our center – the Music & Memory program. The program brings personalized music on iPods to residents who have symptoms of dementia. The hope is that by playing songs that mean something to the person listening to them, they will connect with the music and subsequently be more alert and aware. Today, I saw it. For the past two days, I have been giving a resident the music. The first day she just sat there and listened. The second day she started tapping her foot. Today, she sat alert, watching and following people walking around. She smiled when the music came on. She held my hand – which in the two years I have been here she has never done. I left this resident for a few minutes and came back to her sitting with her eyes closed listening. As soon as she heard me, she opened her eyes and smiled and followed me walking towards her. She started saying some sounds as well. Now to you, this may not seem like a big deal, but to me, it brought me to tears. To see her reacting so positively is huge. To hear a shahbaz say “She is so happy!!! I have not seen that before!” is just music to my ears (no pun intended. Okay, maybe pun intended). These are the moments that make my work so fulfilling. Yes, we have many group activities that are fun and enjoyable for all; but it is these individual moments, when you know you have truly made a difference in someone’s life, that make me want to do more and be better.
A great man once said, “It is always the small things that turn something good into something great.” That attention to detail, that ability to try something new, even for one person, that touch of a hand, these things that come from the heart…This is what being in activities is all about.