Debbie Hommel's A.D. Tips
Dedicated to helping Activity Professionals with the daily operation of their department.
by Debbie Hommel, BA, ACC, CTRS, Executive Director of DH Special Services
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DEBBIE HOMMEL
Executive Director
DH Special Services
About Debbie

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
facilities throughout New
Jersey, New 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.
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Five Steps to Greater Interdisciplinary Involvement
By Debbie Hommel, ACC/MC/EDU, CTRS

A common challenge for the activity professional is how to get the interdisciplinary team
to see quality of life and engaging residents in activities as a team responsibility.
Common responses from other staff are they have no time; or they ask if we will start
doing their duties, if they are going to help us with ours.  This has been an age old
battle since I started in activities, many moons ago.  The following are five suggestions
which may move your community toward a more integrated mindset.

1.        Know your regulations.  If you work in a nursing home, there are at least six
pages within the guidance for F-248 which address the role of the interdisciplinary staff
member in promoting and providing activities.  There are specific references about
assisting residents to and from programs, providing independent and diversional
activities when activities staff are not present and specific methods for the staff to
integrate quality of life interactions within their duties.  If you work in another setting
such as assisted living or medical day care, the references may not be as specific,
however within those levels of care – the approach has always been more socially
based and integrated.  Having these regulations and highlighting the specific notations
regarding the role of the IDC team is crucial. If we can reference “the law” which is what
regulations are, it does give our plea some weight.  If you need copies of the F-248 or
state regulations for your setting, send me an e-mail.  
2.        Create alliances.  You know you have worked too long with the elderly when you
start using the old adages to make a point but “You get more with honey than you do
with vinegar” works here.   Attacking, complaining and pointing out what people are not
doing are rarely received well and puts people on the defensive.    Working together as
a team toward the same goal is often more effective and a lot more pleasant.  Most
direct care staff are very focused on their duties and vested in getting their duties done.
Anyone or thing which diverts them from their duties is seen as a nuisance.  If staff are
approached with the respect that their duties are important, they often respond better.  
Mutual respect is earned over time and creates alliances.  
3.        Focus on the benefits.  The activity professional knows the benefits of each
activity and can be shared as a means to motivate staff to encourage resident
participation.  The benefits should be related to how it will assist the interdisciplinary
staff in their day to day tasks.  For example, encouraging a resident to participate in
exercise will increase range of motion and upper body strength which may enable the
resident to complete simple ADL tasks of dressing and eating.   Involvement in
programs which address diverting behaviors will keep the resident calmer and less
agitated which will make for an easier day for all.  The important message to staff is
when a resident is assisted to a program or offered an activity, they are not “helping
activities” but they are helping the resident which should be the shared goal of the
community.
4.        Incentives.  Introducing incentives to the staff for assisting residents to and from
activities has been tried by many.  Raffle tickets or points given to staff when they assist
residents to a program, inviting staff to have refreshments at a party; or creating
competitions amongst the units or neighborhoods with attendance awards has been
done with mixed results.  These are external motivators and focus on the needs of the
staff rather than the needs of the residents.  This approach has worked more effectively
when a special needs program is introduced.  For example, a new sensory program is
introduced and it is called “Sunshine Club’.  The residents who should be assisted to
this program will have a sunshine symbol placed somewhere in their room for the
caregivers to see during care.  This will remind them to assist this resident to the
Sunshine club.  During the early weeks of the program, when the caregivers assist the
resident to the program, they receive the raffle ticket or whatever incentive being used.  
However, once the program is solidified and residents are assisted to and from
programs as a part of routine care, the incentives are discontinued.   
5.        Be courteous.  Smiling, saying thanks and please go a long way.  So often we get
caught up in our duties, we forget the niceties that contribute to quality of life for the
caregiver.  There are some facilities with a “grumpy” atmosphere, where you can sense
an overall discord.   Be the first person to begin changing that atmosphere and be the
first to smile at others and initiate a courteous approach.  At first, you might be ignored,
but eventually people will reciprocate.   

Light is the task where many share the toil.
Homer