Dedicated to helping Activity Professionals
with the daily operation of their department.
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by Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC,
Executive Director of
DH Special Services.
Programming for the Short Term Resident

Many long term care facilities have devoted a portion of their beds to the short term or sub acute
resident.   These residents are admitted from the hospital and are in the recovery phase of an acute
illness or injury.  They have been deemed stable by the hospital, but not strong enough to go home.   The
sub acute resident is usually involved in a full schedule of therapy, designed to rebuild strength, lost
skills and abilities.   The recreational or activity needs of the short term resident are different than those
admitted for long term care.  In many cases, they do not want to mix with the general population because
“they are not staying”.    Additionally, it is difficult to find the right time to introduce programs to meet the
needs of this population because when they are not in therapy, they are often tired and resting.   

The activity department can adopt various methods of programming for the short term resident.   One
method would assume a diversional role, occupying the resident as needed, when they are not in therapy
or resting.   Arranging for room visits during times the resident may be on the unit or in their room is
effective.   A selection of magazines, puzzle books or various diversional tasks to occupy the resident
during non therapy time can be offered.  A portable TV/VCR/DVD, to be brought to individual rooms and a
library of movies can be maintained on the unit for on-going availability.   Or better yet, many facilities are
investing in a closed circuit television system which would allow for specific movies to be shown at
opportune times. For the diversional approach, the resident can be kept informed of special events,
entertainment and religious programs which may be of interest on the weekends or during non-therapy
time.  Inviting the family member or visitors to attend with the resident also is a welcome diversion during
the rehab process.  

Another approach is to adopt a more active rehab role on the unit.  In this role, the activity professional
would be aware of rehab goals and introduce recreation and individual activities which would compliment
the rehab process.   If working on lower extremities and ambulation skills, involvement in an adaptive
exercise program would be appropriate.   If working on upper extremities, involvement in crafts, gardening
or cooking programs might be appropriate.   All these programs can be developed in coordination with
the therapy departments.  In many cases, the OT or PT aide can help conduct the program in coordination
with the activity professional.  

Another successful program for the short term unit is the “workshop” concept.   Scheduling formal
activities on the short term unit is difficult as the residents are not always available at the same time.   
They come and go, as they go to therapy appointments.   Turning the common area on the unit into a
workshop is an effective approach.  Creating a welcoming environment with coffee, snacks and good
music is a respite while waiting for therapy or resting after therapy.   The room could be equipped with
materials of interest to this population such as computers with internet access, more current games and
crafts of interest to the short term resident.   An activity professional or therapy aide could oversee the
room during active use times.   

Programs offered in conjunction with social services can be introduced to prepare the resident for a
return home.   Community reintegration topics can be introduced and discussed in weekly support
groups.   The social worker and activity professional can work together effectively, to address any
concerns regarding adjustment and need for transitional activities and support.   Conducted in a group
setting provides support to each resident as they transition through the rehab process.

Some facilities introduce a supportive, pampering role for this unit.  A welcoming gift bag or basket will be
presented upon arrival to the unit.   The gift basket holds simple amenities such as scented lotions,
writing paper, snacks or other items to make the resident’s stay comfortable.   Hospitality carts with
flavored coffees and teas make rounds prior to morning therapy and during late afternoon.   This provides
the resident with special attention while they wait or recover from therapy services.   On site massages,
facials, pedicures and manicures are also available to residents on the unit.   

The activity professional needs to determine their role on this unit.   Many facilities adopt a less active role
because of the impression that this type of resident does not want “activities”.     Additionally, many
facilities do not adequately staff the unit to effectively meet the needs of the population.   If the activity
professional wants to assume a more active role and introduce activities that would be of interest and
appropriate for the short term resident, they may need to present a proposal for hours to be added to the
department.    Coordinating efforts with the rehab and restorative staff also might allot additional hours for
such programming.   

The short term resident often goes home which is a positive outcome.   However, will they look back on
their experience as a boring and depressing one or one where they experienced the full rehabilitation
process including therapeutic and diversional activities.  
The activity professional can make that difference in the rehab experience through creative and integrative
Let Debbie answer your
Activity Questions
About Debbie

Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC, 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.
Music: "Alexander's Rag Time Band" furnished by Heart and Soul Music "Providing Quality Music for Nursing Homes"
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