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By Sandra Stimson ADC, CALA, CDP
Executive Director,
Alternative Solutions in Long Term Care
Ideas to Honor Your Staff During Activity Professionals Week!

  1. Make a banner and proudly display this in the lobby.
  2. Have a table that displays all the things your department does.  You could use a display board and
    place pictures of events and descriptive words that also describe the wide array of programs you
    provide and the impact it has on the residents.  Words such as Bingo, Room Visits, Pet Therapy,
    Intergenerational Programs, etc.  Descriptive words such as Empowerment, Therapeutic, spiritual,
    Depression, Enhance Communication, Independence, Self Esteem, Community Involvement,
    Benefits, Physical Condition, Wellness, Life Skills, Etc.
  3. Create a word puzzle of words associated with therapeutic recreation and activities.
  4. Create a gorgeous poster in a frame that has descriptive words of your department.
  5. You could create a winter wonderland of Trees and have a theme about what you provide.  Instead of
    using Christmas decorations you could have snowman or skiers on the trees holding signs with
    descriptive words that describe events and activities. Use white lights. You could place deer around
    the trees, snowman, red cardinals on the trees, fake snow around the trees.
  6. Issue a press release about what your department provides to the residents with a picture of the
    residents in a program.  Remember to get permission from the residents for the photograph and to
    submit to the papers.
  7. The administrator should take all of the staff out to lunch or have a formal luncheon at the facility.
  8. The activity director could hold a private lunch either in the building but better yet, why not take them to
  9. Have a party with the residents and the activity staff to honor your week?
  10. Have balloons for all the activity staff in their office.
  11. Each morning, honor your staff with coffee, juice and donuts / pastries.  The activity director can really
    make their staff feel appreciated during this week.
  12. Provide promotional materials such as Activity Professional Pins.
  13. At the formal luncheon read a Tribute to Activity Professionals found on web site.
  14. Put up the pictures of your staff on a bulletin board with a short bio about them and how long they have
    been at the facility.
  15. Place an article in the facility newsletter about activity professionals week and the history of the
  16. Give the staff flowers.  Who doesn't like to get flowers.
  17. Have the mayor issue a proclamation proclaiming activity professional week?
  18. Invite other activity professionals from other buildings to go out to dinner to honor this week.
  19. Activity Staff should honor their director.  You can purchase a plant or a small gift.  Purchase a card.  
    Many activity staff like to think the department can function without the director and maybe its true.  But
    just maybe you can function without her because your director has done such a great job of training
    the staff.  Everyone needs a leader and if you have a great leader, let him or her know.  

You should meet with your administrator and have a document that clearly states what your plans are for this
weeks.  Some of the things on your list might need approval.  This is our most important week and a time to
show appreciation for all that your staff does for the residents.  If you work in a toxic work environment and feel
your not appreciated, don't let that stop you from throwing a huge party for your department.  It will be
appreciated and will send the message loud and clear that you're an activity director that values her staff. This
will boost morale and energize your entire department for the coming year. And that matters!  

Sensory Rooms and FTAG 248

On a daily basis we receive e-mails from activity professionals around the country asking if they have to have
Sensory Rooms? Is it Federal or State regulation?  The answer we give is that it is not mandated by the
federal government or state regulations that you have sensory rooms.  But what is required is that you provide
"Quality of Life" for all residents.  Remember, that FTAG 248 is not the only federal guideline for nursing
homes that apply to recreation.  There are many others.

Sensory rooms are really for any population.  But generally in long term care it is used for the very low
functioning resident's.  Sensory rooms provide a group activity in an environment that is success oriented,
failure free, purposeful and meaningful.  If you don't have programs to fit the needs of this very special
population than the question would be, "how are you impacting their quality of life on a daily basis?"

As a consultant to many facilities across the country we do not see enough low functioning programs offered
on a daily basis. Either it's not offered enough or not at all.  We also see many residents in day rooms unable
to participate in the scheduled event, left in their rooms, placed at nurses stations or left in the hallway.  If you
have a sensory room that is well staffed, it offers a place for the resident's to go that is stress free and
stimulating.  The sensory rooms can also be used for your NPO programs.  As activity professionals you are
required to have NPO programs for those individuals who are left in their rooms when meals are being
served.  During meal times the NPO residents can come to the sensory rooms.  Think how hard it must be to
smell the food when you cannot have it!  In the sensory rooms the stress and anxiety over meal times is

For the residents who are bed bound due to illness, a great program is a Sensory Cart.  The sensory cart
could be brought to the residents room on a daily basis.  You could place fiber optics such as butterfly's above
their bed.  Sensory carts generally have but not limited to CD players, aroma therapy and fiber optics.  Make
sure you place the carts where the resident can see them. Otherwise what would be the benefit to the patient?

Anyone who is attending the sensory rooms should have care plans.  The Activity Professional should be
documenting how often they attend and what they do while in the sensory rooms.  You should have simple
attainable goals and approaches for each resident.
You should have some kind of formal document that nursing would receive that states; which residents are
attending the sensory room, time and days of the week.

For infection control, the activity professional should be washing each resident's hand as they are brought into
the sensory room.  At the end of the day, all of the sensory equipment should be disinfected.

We have implemented sensory rooms in many facilities in New Jersey.  What a difference it made!  One
facility that had over 200 residents identified 43 residents who could not participate in scheduled activities and
many of these residents were also on the quality indicator report.  Before the sensory rooms opened on each
floor, these residents could be found sitting idle with no stimulation.  Now all 43 residents attend the sensory
room in the morning or afternoon and of course as tolerated. There is a huge difference in a facility with a
sensory room compared to those without one.  

The sensory rooms also improves customer satisfaction among family members who feel their family
member has no activity options due to their function level.  With a sensory room you can offer a wonderful
activity on a daily basis. When families visit they can also spend time with their loved one in the sensory
room.  When families visit with their children, the room provides a place for children to also engage in the
sensory products.  A sensory room is a fun and interactive place for a child.

Sensory rooms should be equipped with rocking chairs.  High functioning residents should be encouraged to
use the room and the rocking chairs.  The rocking chairs are soothing and all of us who have ever sat in a
rocking chair can agree how calming an activity the rocking chairs are.

The sensory rooms should also have things to do on each table. Tactile items, pat mats, activity mats,
squeeze balls, etc.  Also place flash lights on each table. Some residents enjoy turning on the flash light and
pointing the light at the wall.

Watch the type of music and sensory stimulation you provide.  Smells should not be overpowering.  We
recommend anything that is recommended for stress relief like lavender.  Strong smells such as lemon
should not be used.  The type of music can also impact the mood.  Use music that is soothing such as angel
music. It is recommended that you not use music with nature sounds, as dementia clients may
misunderstand the sounds of chirping birds or crickets. They misunderstand the sounds of crashing waves
as water running and want you to turn it off.  For the best outcomes, use soothing angel type music and stress
relief scents.

Sensory rooms should have policy and procedures and these should be placed in the administrators facility
manual as well as the Activity Departments manual.  These should be reviewed on a yearly basis.  

If you have been asking your administrator for sensory equipment and feel your not getting anywhere, you
might consider finding a facility in your area with a sensory room and bringing not only your administrator but
your Director of Nursing.  Every facility has resident's who become agitated due the stress of the unit, lights,
noise, crowded conditions and temperature.  Appeal to the Director of Nursing how much calmer the floor
would be not only for a specific resident but for other residents who are upset by verbal outbursts if you had a
sensory room.  Also, if you have a sensory room, nursing would not have to watch a confused resident which
would free up more of their time for nursing duties.  That example is sure to make a difference with a DON.    

And if that does not work, try the "survey approach."  Surveyors like to see sensory rooms because it means
you have great programs for the low functioning residents and having a sensory room might possibly mean
the difference between passing survey and not passing survey.  Because again, you are required to have
programs to fit all residents needs living in your facility.  Sensory rooms can definitely help you with
appropriate programming and survey outcomes.

So in answer to the question, is it required. No, Can you do without one with the changes to come next year
and the answer is also No.  Take the time to visit a facility with a sensory room and you will know how
important a sensory room is to quality of life for the low functioning resident.  And if your administrator still
won't allot the money, than begin fund raising because in the end, you will be proud you raised the money.    

Alternative Solutions in Long Term Care carries a full line of sensory items, sensory
room care plans, Sensory Room In-services and Sensory Room policy and procedures.        

Happy Activity Professionals Week!

National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners
Lisa Reidinger CTRS, LNHA, CSW, CDP
Executive Director

Free CEU's

Announcement from the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners.  Many health care professionals
who are either certified or licensed have taken the steps to become certified dementia practitioners.  The
NCCDP has partnered with Alzheimer's Care Guide Magazine and Eldercare Activities Guide: The Activity
Professional Magazine.  If you are a CDP upon renewal you will need 10 CEU's in dementia related
seminars.  Both of these publications publish an article a month with a test.  The test and CEU's are
complimentary.  You will need a subscription to either magazine and many facilities are subscribing to the
magazine. The NCCDP has received many calls about whether other organization will also accept the CEU's.  
It is up to each accrediting organization to answer that question and the NCCDP can not speak for them.  To
order this magazine, please go to and click on the magazine's logo.  If you have questions
about free CEU's for CDP's please contact 1 877 729 5191 or visit the web site.  To apply for CDP, you must
meet several criteria: 3 years experience in health care, Certified / Licensed in a health care profession or
hold a Masters or Ph.D., Complete an approved Alzheimer's and Dementia Seminar that is approved by the
NCCDP.  A list of instructors who are offering these classes in your state are listed on the site.  If you're an
activity professional working in health care and are not certified, the NCCDP encourages you to contact
National Council of Certified Activity Professionals at for a list of courses in your area and to
download their application to become a Certified Activity Director or Certified Activity Assistant.

Sandra Stimson has experience as a
corporate consultant, Corporate
Trainer and National Speaker. Her
experience is in long term care, as
Activity Director, Director of
Alzheimer's Units and Assistant
Administrator of a 550 bed long term
care county home.  She is
Co-founder of Pet Express Pet
Therapy Club, is a Life Replay
Specialist.  Sandra implements
dementia units nationwide.  Sandra
has written several books, Volunteer
Management Essentials for Long
Term Care and Pet Express Pet
Therapy Program. Sandra has been a
facilitator for Alzheimer's support
groups and is the Awards Chair for the
NJ Association of Activity
Professionals.  Sandra is the
Executive Director of
Council of Certified Dementia

Alternative Solutions in Long Term
Care offers resources for health care
professionals in many areas of
dementia care, care plans,
Snoezelen products, dementia
activity calendars, adult day care
calendars, sensory calendars,
reminisce videos for dementia,
activity books, and dates to
remember, party supplies,
resources and links.
Copyright 2004-2005
The Activity Director's Office
All rights reserved
Music: "Peg of My Heart" furnished by Heart and Soul Music "Providing Quality Music for Nursing Homes"