Dear Debbie:
By Debbie Hommel, BA,  ACC, CTRS, Executive Director of DH Special Services
Last Update
25 SEP 2009


Debbie Hommel, BA,  ACC, CTRS is
the Executive Director of DH Special
Services. She is a Certified Activity
Consultant on State and National level,
with over twenty-seven years of
experience in providing direct care and
consultation to long term care, medical
day care, assisted living, and ICF/MR
with over twenty-seven years of York,
Maryland, and Pennsylvania. She is an
experienced trainer and workshop
presenter, conducting a variety of
seminars throughout the Tri-State area
for the Activity Professional,
Administrator, and allied healthcare
professional. Debbie Hommel is an
active member of Activity Professional
Associations on State and National
levels. She is ACC certified through the
NCCAP. She is a founding member of
the New Jersey Activity Professionals'
Association, serving terms as Vice
President and President. She received
the Weidner Lifetime Achievement
Award in 1994 and the Monmouth &
Ocean County Activity Professionals
Life Achievement Award in 1999.
Have a question you'd
like a professional
Activity consultant to
Ask Debbie Hommel?
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Questions & Answers:
Question:  Can you please tell me what schools in MA I can get my certification for Activities. I already have a BA in
Psychology. I really don't want to take  an on line course. I live in ____ MA Thank you

Answer:  Here is the link to the listing of the MA instructors from the NCCAP web site.  You will need to contact them to
see where they are offering the courses.
Good luck,
Debbie Hommel, ACC/MC/EDU, CTRS

 is there a length of time that is required for 1 to 1 visits?  Is reminisce and sharing music qualify as an act?
Do you have to have a hands on act to qualify?  Can a wonder subsidize the 1 to 1 program by reading the

Answer:  There is no mandate stating "1-1 visits should be 15 minutes" or any similar statement.  1-1 programming
should be offered based on resident interest and need.  Reminiscing, music, reading the newspaper and any activity
that is appropriate to the resident's ability or needs is considered suitable for a 1-1 visit.  The visit content should be
defined through assessment.  It is good practice to care plan room visits and to document that they have occurred and
how the resident is responding to the visit. The interdisciplinary team should also participate in providing 1-1 contact
as well.  The IDC team can turn on appropriate music, ensure the right television show is playing, converse during
care, spend 1-1 time in between other tasks and utilize diversional and recreational materials left by the activity staff.  I
know this seems far fetched but the involvement of the IDC staff is written clearly in the federal guidelines for F-248. I
can send you a copy if you like.

I also have a great independent study program on 1-1 activities.
If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact me.
Debbie Hommel, ACC/MC/EDU, CTRS

 I am an Associate's Degreed RN (currently in Texas), and have been working as a Director of Nursing in
Long Term Care (Nursing Home / SNF) for the past 15 years.  I would like to obtain an Activity Director's Certificate (just
because).  Is it a MUST to complete the course, or is there any way that one would be allowed to "test out" for the
certification (such as a nursing student can "test" for a CNA license after a minimum of classroom hours
without taking a CNA class)?

Answer:  The NCCAP process currently does not have a "testing out" policy.  They require that all ADC applicants
complete the MEPAP course.  However, you might meet the ADPC level certification with what you have now.
Activity Director Provisional Certified (ADPC) is a certification for those individuals working on their certification.
You would need a minimum of three of the five following criteria:
  • 12 college credits and must include an english
  • 30 Hours of continuing education taken within past five years (in topics related to geriatrics, activities and other
    health related topics)
  • A minimum of 6000 hours experience (which you have)'

If you have at least three of the five criteria, you can apply.  You can download the application from the NCCAP web
site at

If you would like information about the courses or have any additional questions, feel free to e-mail me back.
Debbie Hommel, ACC/MC/EDU, CTRS

Question:  Debbie they have ask me at work about starting a Adult daycare and I have been a Activity director for 11
years I have never done this what is it and how do I go about starting one?

Answer:   If you mean a licensed adult day program, you would have to check out your state regulations as there is a
lot to that.  If you mean a day program within your facility for special needs residents, that is a little more do-able.
An in-house day program is where specific residents are brought to a special room or couple of rooms to stay for the
day.  There is usually extra staff in the room and they eat in the room as well as have activities.  The program is
usually for residents who have various behaviors and would benefit from a smaller, more structured program with
increased supervision.
Not sure if this is the type of program you are referencing.  With more information, could assist further.

Question:  I was certified As a Activity Director in 1999 from a community college so
do I need to renew this or is it ok?

Answer:  I am not familiar with the certification issued by a community college so I cannot say if it is still valid or
expired.  If you were certified through the National Certification Council of Activity Professionals and did not renew
since 1999, your certification has lapsed and you would have to re-apply as a new applicant.  You can access
information regarding that certification on their web site at

Question:  I am  interested in becoming Certified as an Activity Director.  This is actually my third position as an
Activity Director. Actually, my second position here.  I am interested in sharing with someone my experiences
and where to go from here.  I have just finished a year with Americorp and have an Educational Award that I must use
in seven years and I am hoping to be able to use this towards my certification for Activities and I need some
assistance on making this happen.

Answer:   I see from your area code that you are in Pennsylvania.  There are several MEPAP instructors in your
state.  You would have to contact them to see where and when they offer their course.  To become certified, you will
need to complete MEPAP I and II.  You can see the list of PA instructors on the NCCAP web site at
Another option would be to complete the course through independent study.  I offer the course though this method
and you can start the course at any time and complete it at your own pace.  You can see information about my course
on my web site at
You can also access a number of other instructors who offer the course through independent study on the NCCAP
web site.
If you need additional information, feel free to e-mail me.

Question:  I am due for renewal this year for my AD certification.   I would like to add specialization on Memory Care &
Educator to my credentials. When I apply for renewal, should I just apply too for these just by submitting 10 CEUs for
each specialization?  As always, thank you so much for your in put & time in giving me your expertise.

Answer:  If you are adding specialty certifications when you renew - you complete the regular renewal form with your
mandated hours to renew whatever level you are currently certified as.  To add the specialties - you also send in page
1 of the main application which you complete and check under reason for application - specialization and whichever
level you are going for.  You also send in page 4 of the main application. It is there you list the ten hours for each
Hope that helps - if you have additional questions - feel free to e-mail me back.

Question:  Dear Debbie,i let my CNA license lapse in 97. I want to go back into the field, but i need to know do i have
to retake everything or can i just take a refresher. I had a lady in Charlotte NC who said she held a one day class but i
cant remember her name or anything. Can you help me? I live in G__ NC.

Answer:  I really can't answer questions about the certified nursing assistant certification.  Here is a web site which is
for NC and has information about nursing aide requirements and testing and such.

If you have a question about activity certification, I could better answer
that more specifically.

Question:  Is there a template for calendars that one could list the activities in a file and then drag them to the
particular days? I am looking for a way to simplify developing each month's calendar.

Answer:  We discuss this topic in my MEPAP classes.  Most people use Publisher for their calendars.  They say it is
the easiest to use.  Other people have mentioned Calender Creator which allows you to program in your regular
activities and then it gives you the calendar with everything in the right space.  For example, if you have Resident
Council the third Thursday of every month or Rosary every Friday and Bingo on Tuesdays - you can program them in
and it arranges the new calendar with all your routine programs in their appropriate space for the month.  But some
people say the Calendar Creator program is hard to use.  Not having used it, I personally cannot say what they mean
by "hard".

Question:  HELP!  I need a real nice NewsLetter..I have done them before but its a new job and I need to be

Answer:   Hi, most computers have newsletter programs on them.  Have you checked out your computer to see what
is there?  I have several templates on my computer, installed with the Microsoft programs.  I also know that some of the
Publishers, Printworks and other card/calendar making programs have newsletter templates.
As far as content - focusing on coming events, holidays, birthdays, facility news, resident of the month, staff of the
month and highlights of past activities are the usual articles. I used to have a Newsletter committee of residents who
would help me brainstorm article ideas and even write some of them - like jokes, advice columns and getting to know
you columns.  

Question:  Could you please give me information on the usual salary of an activity assistant at long term assisted
living facilities?

Answer:  It is hard to quote a average salary as there are regional differences across the country.    Our state
association does a salary survey every few years.  The average assistant salary in NJ was $12 an hour in a survey
conducted in 2005.  
NCCAP also did a salary survey in 2005 and you can access it here.
What state are you from?  Possibly, your state association could give you a better answer?

Question:  I have new resident in his 60's with autism. Do you know of any activities I can do with him or any websites
to check out? Thanks

Answer:  I honestly do not know much about autism, let alone elderly autism, so I cannot speak to that.  Here is a web
site which has TR treatment ideas and bulletin boards for all sorts of diagnoses.  Maybe there would be something
there that would help you.

I am sorry I am not much more help than that.

Question:  I have been a Activity Director for 11 years and now in a new Nursing Home.  Does any of the other
Directors feel like You just aren't doing enough? I feel like i am moving but yet not really doing a lot for the residents ...
it's a hard feeling to deal with....

Answer:  I think what you are describing is the "hamster on the wheel" syndrome.  We are busy as heck but at the end
of the day we are asking, what did I get done? It is hard going to a new facility as you see so much you want to do and
clean up and reorganize and try to start to fix or add new programs all at once and then don't accomplish anything.  I
think the best approach to this is the create a master list of everything you want to accomplish or fix or add to the
program. Then you need to prioritize as it is impossible to get it all done in a week or month.  Creating a workable plan
of action always makes me feel a sense of control which minimizes that sense I am not doing enough.  If a lack of time
is the issue, analyzing the time wasters is key.

It would be helpful to identify any non-activity duties consuming your time, time wasting tasks, tasks that are done
inefficiently, or ineffective systems which are outdated.  Time can be saved and re-allocated if it is reviewed from this
perspective.  You also want to make sure you are not just "burning out" a bit.  Coming from one position for 11 years
and jumping into another position takes it's toll. It is stressful changing jobs and if you are walking into a situation which
needs extra work and energy - it will stress you further.

Not sure if any of this helps, but you are not alone in your frustration, feel some support in that.  But, you also need to
take charge of your stresses and frustrations and introduce some reasonable solutions if possible.

Question:  I haven't worked as an Activity Director for six years.  Is my certificate still good?

Answer:   If you mean your certification through the National Certification Council of Activity Professionals - chances
are - no.  The certification through NCCAP needs to be renewed every two years and if you have not kept that up -
you will need to re-apply to them as a new applicant.  You can download the information from their web site at www. If you just mean your class certificate from your MEPAP or whatever type of course your state teaches - that
certificate does not really expire.

Most states require more recent work experience so your lack of recent activity work experience might be more of an
issue than your certificate.

Question:  I am working at a facility now and only have to take the exam and do 2 mores days of clinicals.  I went and
told the director of nursing who noted that a patient refuses to let me do anything for him. So she told me to go help
him. He was combative, so i went back to tell her.  She said ok; but when it was time for me to clock out she wrote me
up. What can i do?

Answer:  It is really hard for me to respond to your letter without all the details.

Whenever an employee gets "written up", they have the option of asking questions and disputing the situation at the
time of the "write up".  If you feel the "write up" is unjust or inappropriate - you have the opportunity to write something
on the form they use for the documentation of the counseling session.  I would suggest you go back to the nurse who
wrote the paper and ask her (in a nice way) why you were being reprimanded.  If her reasoning is sound - you need to
understand what you did was against facility policy or resident rights or regulations or whatever the violation was.  
Sorry I am not much more help than that.

Question:  I am an activities director in AR, I am trying to find out if I need CEU hours and no one seems to know.

Answer:  I looked at the Arkansas state regulations and I did not see any mention of continuing education
requirements.  However - if you are certified through the National Certification Council of Activity Professionals - there
is a continuing education requirement that is a part of that.

Question:  I am a certified activity director (40 hrs) in California I am interested in becoming certified nationally. I
have an AA degree in human services and approximately 12 years experience.  What are some steps I need to take
for the national certification?  

Answer:   If you took the 40 hour course between 1991 and 2001, you could qualify for the Activity Director Certified
under track five.  Track five is for individuals who have taken a basic activity course less than the MEPAP between
those years and have a minimum of six years (12,000 hours) experience within past ten years and have 30 hours of
continuing education (six hours must be in activity documentation).
If you took the 40 hour course before 1991 or after 2001, you will have to take the MEPAP course to become
nationally certified.
Let me know when you took the 40 hour course and we can proceed from there.

Question:  I think I am burning out.  How can I get back my love for my job that I once had?

Answer:  Hi, I think we have all felt like you do at some point in our careers. The activity profession is a lot more
stressful than it looks.  Most people think our job is fun and games every day.  Having said that, it is important to
realize we get into this situation (feeling exhausted and losing our zest for our job) because we are a caring
profession.  The caring professions are at high risk for burn out because the demands that are placed on us are
physical, mental and emotional.  The demands are placed upon us by people we become fond of (our residents).  

Our inability to meet the multiple demands daily can leave us feeling frustrated, upset and eventually burnt out.  
Acknowledging you are in need of a "mental health day" is the first step toward recovery.  Ignoring how you are feeling,
thinking it will get better "next week", or "when the calendar is done" or "after the state comes and goes" is not a good
approach.  If you are feeling this way, it will not go away unless you take some responsibility for it.  My first suggestion
would be to take a vacation.  Getting away from the job is mentally healing. That is why they give us vacations.  It
allows us to re-group and begin to miss the residents and our daily contact.  

By the end of the vacation, most are often looking forward to going back.  If your at home environment is as stressful
as your work environment, that needs to be resolved as well.  To take a vacation and have to deal with equal amounts
of stress at home would not be therapeutic.  While  at work, you need to take your breaks and keep your hours to the
40 hour work week.  I know we all work more than the 40 hour week, but going without lunch or an occasional break
and putting in consistent ten hour days is not good practice.  It wears you down and makes you vulnerable to burn out.

While at work, identify your stressors.  What is it that is wearing you down?  Is it the paperwork?  Lack of help?  
Specific needs of the residents?  Management style of other staff?  Are these any situations you can resolve through
better systems or training?  If the stressors are within your domain or control, fix them - make them more efficient or
resolve the stress they are causing.  If the stress is something you cannot control, you need to work on how you
respond to the stress.  Sorry to say, some people just like to "push other people's buttons", meaning they just like
cause problems.  If that is the case, work on your response to them.  You can't control them but you can control your
response to them.  

Another thought is to take up some sort of relaxation activity or something just for you.  Take a walk at lunchtime (walk
briskly around the building or the block); take up meditation or deep breathing and do that when you feel the day
getting to you or find a peer or friend you can vent to. If you have a professional organization in your area (local or
state activity professional association), attend their meetings.   Being with professional peers is comforting and it is
nice to talk to others who are going through what you are going through.

Here is a really good web site on burn out.  It has some helpful hints.  
If you put "burn out" in the search engines, lots of information comes up.
The bottom line to all the good information out there is that you have to introduce  the suggested actions within your
life yourself. We have to assume responsibility for our own mental health and well being on the job.

Question:  How can I find out about Resident Council Meetings and regulations?

Answer:  If you would tell me which state you worked in - I could tell you if there were any state regulations in your
state.  Federally, the requirement for resident council is included under resident rights - it says that the resident has
the right to meet and organize.  Under self determination, there is much discussion of making decisions and the facility
acting on those decisions.  But, there is nothing specifically referencing Resident Councils specifically, nor how they
should be run.  Standard of practice indicates meetings should occur regularly (as determined by the residents),
minutes should be kept, meetings should be private, and any issues or suggestions should be followed up upon.  
There is a great web site called Resident Council of Washington.  They have a lot of good resources.

There is a good book called the Resident Council Handbook which the Resident Council of Washington created.  I
have it available on my web site.

I also created an independent study program on Developing a Resident Council.

I wrote an article on councils which you can find in the archives of the Activity Director Today web site at http:

Question:  As an AD in Kansas do I need continuing education?  If I do, where can I get it?

Answer:  If you meet the qualifications of an activity director in Kansas, there is no continuing education requirement
to be met after that.  To be an activity director in Kansas, the state regulations require completion of a state approved
activity training program which is 36-40 hours in length.  You can find information about who offers that course on the
Kansas Activity Professional Association website.

If you are nationally certified through the National Certification Council of Activity Professionals, there is a continuing
education requirement as a part of the two year renewal.  Your state association offers conventions and such which
would most likely meet that requirement as well.  There are also independent study programs available which would
provided approved NCCAP continuing education.  I offer several programs of that type on my web site.

Question:  I'm a little confused about the educational requirements for certification. Some of the at home study
courses say that the only academic requirements for the course are a High School diploma or G.E.D. Studens are
required to complete an internship with this particular program as well and the program is also listed on it's website as
being pre-approved provider for the NCCAP Basic Education Course. So is this a complete course that would NOT
require college credits? That is what I am assuming, but it's confusing so I wanted
to be sure.

Also, I am just looking into this profession and was wondering what the work
hours are for someone in this profession.
Your help is appreciated. Thanks!

Answer:  To enroll in the MEPAP (though independent study or classroom setting), you have to have a high school
diploma or equivalent.  To take the MEPAP course, you do not need college credits.

To qualify for National Certification as a Director, you would need a minimum of 12 college credits.  
As far as work hours go, it depends on the setting. Nursing homes and assisted living communities are 24/7
operations.  Activity staff work 365 days of the year.  Most directors work Monday through Friday with weekend
coverage as needed or with special events.  Activity assistants work most of the weekend and evening hours.  

Nursing homes and assisted living communities are not 9-5 jobs.  Activities are required to be offered seven days a
week, including holidays and evenings.

Medical day programs are often Monday through Friday, holidays and snow days off.  Hours are usually 8-4 or there

Question:  Please re-educate me as to the activity hours each resident is required to have in a long term care facility
per New Jersey State regulations.

Answer:  NJ State regulations for nursing homes state the following:

An average of 45 minutes of resident activities staff time per resident per week shall be devoted to resident activities,
which requires at least one full-time equivalent staff member for every 53 residents Advisory - At least 55 minutes of
resident activities staff time per resident per week is devoted to resident activities. (This is an average. It is equal to
one full-time equivalent staff member for every 44 residents.)

Question:  I'm an AD in a long term facility 144beds. I have one assistant for the entire building.  It's next to impossible
to do all that is required.  Administration suggest we recruit volunteers to assist us. We have some already,however
they are assisting daily. My duties require that most of my time is spent doing assessments and other staff meetings.
I feel overwhelmed.  What is the requirement of activity staff for a facility this size?

Answer:  I would agree - your hours seem a bit ridiculous.  

With only two people to cover seven days and evenings for 144 residents - you and your assistant must be running
ragged.  Plus, I would think it is hard to offer many concurrent programs or programs of varying levels for residents
with special needs.

What State do you work in?  Some states have mandated hours, some do not.
Once, I hear what State you work in, we can see if your state mandates certain staffing.

Question:  I was recently relieved of my duties as Management assistant due to cut backs at the AL that I work.  The
AD had resigned the day before and the position was offered to me.  I jumped at the chance to make some much
needed changes in this dept.  All our former RD did with the residents was play bingo 2 times a week and give out
candy bars as prizes.  We have tried to add other activities over the past few months but the residents are not at
all interested in taking part.  All they seem to want to do is sit in their rooms and watch TV.  I have found loads of great
ideas on this site but my questions is... How do I get the residents to even come to the activities?

Answer:  It is frustrating to put so much effort into planning and have no one attend.
A few suggestions to get them more interested are:
-Involve them in the planning process.  Have an activity planning meeting and get specific ideas from them.  Your
group may be small at first, but if you have monthly meetings, hopefully it will grow.
-Do you do an initial assessment?  I know it is not required for activities in assisted living but it provides invaluable
information.  A simple interest inventory would list what the resident likes to do - past and present. That information
can be used to create new programs and target specific residents to attend the programs based on their interests.
-Provide various incentives to attend.  Have door prizes at select activities.  Give out raffle tickets as they arrive and
call a number at the end of the activity.  
-Provide written invitations to select activities.  Simple invitations can be created on the computer and when creating a
new program - giving out a specific written invitation to attend sometimes generates interest.
-Give out coupons that can be redeemed at certain activities.  A coupon for a "free cup of coffee" or a "free donut"
might bring them to the program.

I created an independent study program on Motivation.  It is based on a great little book called "Getting People
Involved in Life and Activities".
It has lots of great ideas to motivation participation.

Question:  Our Ombudsman told us that there is a new reg that says nursing homes have
to allow motorized wheelchairs and scooters. Do you have any information on
this?  I want to thank you for this site.  You are really helpful and informative.

Answer:  I honestly cannot answer this with any authority based on specific regulations.  My understanding is that
residents have always been allowed to use motorized wheelchairs.  To my knowledge there is nothing that prohibited it
in the past.  I would think if the resident can afford to purchase such a chair and is competent to use the chair, they
are allowed to use the chair.

I have been involved with facilities where the resident had a motorized chair but then became dangerous in the chair
(running over/into people, etc.) and it was decided they could not use the chair.  But that is because they were causing
harm to others and potentially themselves.

Question:  Looking for a few ideas for young residents.

Answer:   I wrote an article in a past Activity Director's Office on this subject. It has a list of suggestions.

Question:  I have two questions.
#1:  I am trying to get my foot in the door in a senior/assisted living community, as an Activity Assistant, Concierge, or
Receptionist. I have been taking online college courses for a Certificate in Gerontology. I hope to have that
completed by Spring 2010. I have experience planning activity's & event's for Girl Scout troops, and for various
companies I have worked for (administratively).  How do I present these skills and my certificate on a
resume without having any professional experience in a senior-based environment?

#2: My long-term goal is to continue towards a degree in gerontology and nursing. I would like to be an Activity Director
and/or Case Nurse. Do I need the NCAAP cert as well as a degree, and is there any hope of getting into a AD position
before receiving my degree?

Answer:  Answer to question #1 - I would suggest a skills oriented resume.  When you do not have direct experience
in the particular job you are seeking, a skills based resume highlights related skills which are relevant to the job you
are seeking.  For example - you say you have planning and organizational experience and that could be highlighted in
the resume.  

Answer to question #2 - Each state has different requirements for the director of activity position so it is hard to say
exactly what you need to be a director in your state.  To acquire NCCAP certification - you would need a minimum of
12 college credits, 6000 hours experience in activities, the MEPAP I and II, as well as thirty hours of continuing
education in topics related to activities and long term care and aging.  So, I guess to answer the question - you could
get the NCCAP certification before you finished your degree if you completed the MEPAP I and II and acquired some
activity experience.  

Not to complicate the answer - you could qualify for Activity Director Provisionally certified.  ADPC is a provisional
certification good for six years.  It is meeting three of five components.  The five components are 12 college credits,
6000 hours experience, MEPAP I, MEPAP II, 30 hours of continuing education.  If you could meet any three of those
five, you could apply for ADPC.  Then you would have six years to meet the remaining two components.  

Question:  I am interested in the track 5 certification.  I received my certificate in 1995, completed the working hours
of 12,000 in the past 6 years.  The question I have is about the 30 CE hours, what time frame are we talking
about?  Is it in the last 10 like they talk about for the certificate or in the last 6 as in the years worked or 5 years as in
the guidelines of the recertification?  

Answer:  Any continuing education submitted with the initial certification application has to be completed within the
past five years.  With track five, 20% of those hours (six hours) has to be on the subject of activity documentation.

Question:  I am new to the activity department. This is what I've been wanting to do for some time now, however I am
getting aggravated with my director. She didn't train me whatsoever on what to do, how to do it, or who needs one on
ones. I am getting extremely upset on basically a daily basis, because she does not help me whatsoever. Is there
something that I can do to get things rolling better for myself. I have even offered up some ideas to incorporate
into the calendar, but she has not added them or talked about them again. I've gone to her and told her that I don't
know how to do some things, and it's almost as if she gets irritated with me. I'm wanting to get my director's license so
that hopefully one day I can take over the department.  What should I do?

Answer:  Welcome to the activity profession!  It is a very rewarding and exciting profession.  If you feel your director is
not giving you the support you need or want, I would suggest taking personal responsibility for your desire to learn and
grow in this profession.  I would agree - you need to be learn a lot to do this job well and it would be nice to have
someone mentor you and guide you positively along the way.  Unfortunately, in life - things don't always go the way we
would like.  This forces us to make decisions and take different paths.  I would suggest you educate yourself through
the internet (there are countless web sites with information on just about anything).  Sign up for some classes and
begin the formal process of training yourself to be a director.  If possible, find someone else in the facility who would be
willing to share information with you.  Another activity assistant, a nurse, a nursing assistant - all might be able to guide
you in learning as much as you can about working with the elderly.

On a final note, never forget how you feel in your current situation.  When you become a director, remember how you
wanted to be trained and guided in a positive way as a new assistant - as you provide the training to your staff.
Remember to welcome the enthusiasm and excitement of the new staff, regardless of how long you have been doing
the job and how much you have learned over the years.  I guess what I am saying - use this experience to grow into
the activity professional you want to be.  And use this experience to always remind yourself to never become a "been
there, done that" kind of activity professional.  

Here is the link to my site which has all the links I have found that are helpful and informative.
Here is the link to my site which has independent MEPAP program which prepares you to become a director and can
assist you in becoming Nationally Certified.
Here is the link to my site with several shorter independent study programs on various topics including programming,
documentation, professional development and more.

Good luck and if you need more assistance or resources - feel free to e-mail me back.

Question:  I live in Michigan and I am having trouble finding a 36 hour training course.  Is the 36 hour training course
under the guidelines for MI or do I need the two 90 module courses.  I prefer the 36 hour training if it is acceptable.  
Please help me where to look.

Answer:  I would suggest you contact someone from your State association to see if they know of instructors who
teach the approved course in your state.

I would also contact the state representative for NCCAP.  She might be able to help you finding some local courses
and defining the requirements for Michigan.
Cathie Coleman  586-752-5008  248-437-7450

Question:  Maybe this question has been asked before but I would like to know what the difference is between being a
"Recreation Therapy Department" and "Activities Department". I am not a CTRS and wonder if we should continue to
call ourselves a "Recreation Therapy Department". How does this relate in terms of the documentation, implementation
of programs, and staff development (there doesn't seem to be much difference). I understand the MDS aspect of this
and currently we are not involved in the T1A (always enter 0 there).  Hope you can clear this up for me.

Answer:  According to ATRA - the American Therapeutic Recreation Association :
"Therapeutic recreation is the provision of Treatment Services and the provision of Recreation Services to persons
with illnesses or disabling conditions. The primary purposes of Treatment Services which are often referred to as
Recreational Therapy, are to restore, remediate or rehabilitate in order to improve functioning and independence as
well as reduce or eliminate the effects of illness or disability. The primary purposes of Recreational Services are to
provide recreation resources and opportunities in order to improve health and well-being.

Therapeutic Recreation is provided by professionals who are trained and certified, registered and/or licensed to
provide Therapeutic Recreation". (C ATRA, 1986) So - to call it recreation therapy - you must be a CTRS.

Kim Grandal wrote an article regarding what a CTRS and it is posted on the Activity Director's Office web site at http:

The activity department is more diverse in it's make up yet therapeutic as well.  The goals of therapeutic activities
mirror therapeutic recreation in that we are to restore and improve quality of life through involvement in activity.  The
term activity is broad and encompasses groups, individual, life skills, socialization and most anything that is not active
treatment (ADL's, physical, occupational, speech therapy).  

The NAAP (National Association of Activity Professionals) defines the following: "The activity professional provides
activity services and programs, which enable each client/resident to maximize their potential in activity participation."  
The definition goes on to say we provide these services primarily with a geriatric population.  However, the services
are provided based on assessment, care planning and evaluation of the service for each individual.  The definition
also states that activity services are directed and provided by professionals who are trained and certified to provide
activity services for geriatric populations.

As far as documentation goes - the federal regulations define that a "qualified professional" is responsible for
completing or supervising the completion of the assessment.  The Federal regulations define a qualified professional
as :

"Is a qualified therapeutic recreation specialist or an activities professional who  

(A) Is licensed or registered, if applicable, by the State in which practicing; and

(B) Is eligible for certification as a therapeutic recreation specialist or as an activities professional by a recognized
accrediting body on or after October 1, 1990; or

    (ii)   Has 2 years of experience in a social or recreational program within
    the last 5 years, 1 of which was full time in a patient activities program in a health care setting; or

    (iii)  Is a qualified occupational therapist or occupational therapy assistant; or

    (iv)  Has completed a training course approved by the State."

So technically, documentation can be completed by either the activity professional or recreation specialist.  The
department can also be managed by both a recreation specialist or activity professional.  I personally believe both
professions are working toward the same goals of the best
quality of life for the residents/clients served.

Question:  We have a young resident who is mentally retarded and we are having a hard time with appropriate
activities for him.  Do you have any suggestions.

Answer:  I think you need to approach this resident as you would any other - with a good assessment. You need to
identify his functional and cognitive abilities and create approaches based on his abilities (just as you would an elderly
resident).  You would also gather a history of his interests and previous past times (if any - depending on how impaired
he has been his whole life) and create programs based on his interests.  If he is higher functioning, explore helping
roles for him - helping in activities or around the facility. If he is more impaired, introducing diversional tasks (sorting,
work related tasks) and if he is very impaired - sensory programs are appropriate.  Would he be appropriate for some
sort of day program for developmentally disabled adults.  There is often funding for that sort of thing through various
community agencies.  If you put "developmentally disabled" in the search engines - lots of information comes up.  
There are agencies and lots of resources that might be able to provide you with guidance.

Question:  In our facility we are getting many short term therapy stays. My initial assessment form is three pages long.
A lot of these folks do not consider themselves "Residents" but "patients". My Question is shouldn't there be a more
compact form that is appropriate for short term stay?

Also, should these "Patients" be included in Resident council? My long term Residents don't think so, because they
don't live here and don't plan on living here. If you have information or thoughts on this please let me know.

Answer:  You are right to notice the needs of the short term resident are different than the long term admission.  I
agree with a shorter assessment form.  We need to focus on their short term needs and information that is more
relevant to a shorter stay.  The interests and plan will be different as their time is limited and their goals are different.  
So, creating a short term assessment tool is appropriate and allowable.  You can also create a special "council" for
them on their unit.  I have seen bi-weekly "town meetings" on these units which give the short term resident an
opportunity to voice their opinion and have input, regardless of their length of stay.

They cannot be kept from the main council meetings but again - their needs are different and they may not relate to
the discussions held in the long term council meetings.  But, they may have some concerns relevant to them on their

Question:  I read in another person's post about the advantage of putting together a portfolio. I have been working as
the Activities Director at an assisted living facility for almost a year prior to that I was the student intern in
the activity department so I have done a lot and have a lot of experience with our facility, with that said I believe a lot of
what I have done can benefit others and other facilities as I continue my career. I am eventually looking to relocate and
will want to take some sort of visual experience log to show to perspective employers in the future. What would you
suggest to go into an Activities Professionals Portfolio? Thanks for your help.

Answer:  You need to find a balance of enough information without overdoing it.
Photos of some of the key events you have planned - things that are out of the ordinary or are note worthy.  One or
two photos of each event which highlight what you want to highlight - décor, food, arrangement, resident involvement -
whatever.  You could include a sample calendar you have done, sample newsletter, forms and flyers you have made.  I
would include any copies of certifications you have (MEPAP, NCCAP, NCTRC).  I would include letters of
commendation received from families or agencies and any awards or recognition you have received.  I would include
your resume as well.  Office supply stores actually sell nice portfolios for this purpose.  It allows you to put items in
plastic sleeves and it is usually canvas with a velcro strap.  The challenge is not overdoing it but putting enough in

Question:  I work in a long term facility as an activity coordinator.  We have one transitions building, two middle to last
stage memory care buildings and three enhanced care buildings.  My question is; in my memory care buildings,
particularly, transitions, they are difficult to encourage to exercise.  Many of them sit in the foyer and thats what they
want.  My activity assistant for that building has gotten many complaints because she can not get them out of that
room,nor involved in activities.  As her supervisor, I want to help find resources, etc, to help her succeed.  Most
importantly though, I want to help the residents to the best of my ability.  We need help!

Answer:  I  have found that there are two good motivators in getting residents to exercise or participate in more active
programs - music and props.  The right music will get anyone moving in their seat.  The right music might provoke their
interest in coming into a room and seeing what is going on.

What is the right kind of music?  You might have to experiment and see what your residents like.  It could range from
traditional big band to polka to sixties music to disco music.  Using music to go with the theme of the day is also fun -
patriotic music during 4th of July week or Hawaiian music to go with summer themes.  The use of props - various types
of balls (interesting texture type balls which can be found in many of the catalogs and also dollar stores) provoke
interest and offer an additional level of stimulation.  Exercise sticks, decorated sticks (which could be made in another
activity), scarves, exercise bands and other visual items they could hold and move to the music or instruction.  Using
imagery within the exercise groups generates excitement and interest.  If it is summer time - create movements of
things you would do in the summer - like swimming movements, picking peaches from the tree, or riding a bicycle.  
Once you get a few of the residents participating, possibly the others will see and hear the fun and be more willing to
join in.

If they are still stuck in their seats in the foyer - then bring the active game/exercise to them.  

Question:  I have many years experience as an RN and lots of that has been in multiple roles in long term care. I am
interested in a position as the Activity Director. This is an open position in a nursing home which I am not employed at.I
love working with people and seeing them be happy. Any advice as to how to make this transition and the wording of
my resume?  Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

Answer:  I would suggest  checking the required qualifications for the director of activity position in your state.  There
are certain educational and experience requirements defined in many states.  Some are more stringent than others.  
You would also need to meet federal requirements for the position as well.  
Here is a web site which lists regulations by state.  If you tell me which state you are from - I could better help you
figure it out.

Regarding your resume - I would suggest creating a "functionally" based resume which highlights your related skills
and knowledge.  May people from the nursing profession make an easy transition into activities.  A functional
assessment would focus on skills such as organization, communication, ability to work with elders and similar skills
which transcend professions.  Rather than a "chronological" resume which focuses on jobs and job history.  If your job
history is just nursing, it might exclude you from the initial interview process.  A functional resume would focus on the
skills and abilities needed for the position.

Question:  How does one get their foot in the door with this career? It seems like nowadays it takes experience to get

Answer:  You can gain experience directly in the field by volunteering.  That may not be what you are looking for, but
many activity professionals have roots in volunteering first.  If volunteering is not an option, applying for any entry level
activity assistant position is your next step.  Many facilities will hire assistants with various qualities that lend
themselves to working with elders.  Compassion, patience, good communication skills, creativity, enthusiasm,
resourcefulness and a desire to help others are qualities which are suitable for working in health care.  Emphasizing
and show casing those qualities during any job interview might assist the interviewer in overlooking the lack of
experience and seeing the potential in the employee.

You can also define and relate experience from other jobs which  to working in activities such as organization,
planning, and leadership skills. For example, many teachers find themselves in activities for some reason. If you look
at their skills and duties, they are similar in some ways and it is just a matter of learning how to work with a different
group of people according to a different set of rules.

Question:  Is there a web site you can take for activities on MDS?

Answer:  Not really sure what you are looking for.
You can finds lits of information about the MDS on the CMS (Center for Medicare& Medicaid Services) web site.

If you are looking for books on documentation which explain the MDS from an activity perspective - Documentation in a
Snap is a great book.
I offer it on my web site.
I have created an independent study program on documentation to go with it.

I also have some information on my web site about activity documentation as well.
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