Dedicated to helping Activity Professionals with the daily operation of their department.
by Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC, CRTS, Executive Director of DH Special Services.
Let Debbie answer your
Activity Questions
About Debbie

Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC,
CRTS, 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.
Providing Internet Resources
for Activity Professionals
in Long Term Care Settings

Copyright 2004-Present
The Activity Director's Office
All Rights Reserved

When All Else Fails, Bring them to Activities
By Debbie Hommel, ACC, CTRS
It is mid-morning and you have just gotten everyone settled.  This morning’s activity is one of
their favorites – “You be the Judge”.   Suddenly, the activity room door opens and you hear
the repetitive calling out as the resident is wheeled into the room.   As you stand up, the
nursing assistant says “we’ve tried everything, now it is your turn”.  Before you can say a word,
the nursing assistant is gone.  The resident’s repetitive calling out has gotten everyone upset,
some are yelling in response and several are bickering as they try to leave the room.  You can
forget “You be the Judge” at this point.    Immediate efforts are devoted to calming the resident
with repetitive calling out and trying to salvage the rest of the morning.

As an activity professional, I believe in the power of therapeutic activities. I have seen
residents soothed, cheered, distracted, calmed, energized, strengthened, and diverted with a
wide range of group and individual programs.  However, many people think we have a magic
activity wand which miraculously “cures” whatever behavior ails the resident.  One of the
biggest frustrations I have as a professional is when staff randomly introduce a resident to a
program when the resident is actively in the midst of a behavioral moment.   Although activities
may work to distract, divert or calm – as noted in “Understanding Behavioral Symptoms” (http:
//, one must determine the
cause of behavior prior to resolution.  

Activities can be suitable diversions but they must be introduced based on need and interest.  
If it is determined that an activity might be a solution, a specific approach or activity should be
identified and introduced based on the interest and ability of the resident.  Pushing a resident
into the closest activity can be detrimental, as that activity may not be appropriate and may
contribute to increased negative behaviors.  

There are several ways the activity program and specific activities can be used as a diversion
for behavioral symptoms.  The program design itself, specific activity programs and
individualized activity approaches can all be utilized to address specific behaviors within the

Program Design:  The activity schedule should be a combination of flexible structure and
routines.  Regular involvement in a balanced and well designed activity program is a
preventative measure for residents with challenging behaviors.    The resident with dementia
and behavioral symptoms finds comfort within familiar programs conducted in a familiar way.  
Most memory support units adopt a cluster format of programming where programs are
conducted routinely every day.  For example, each morning may begin with a coffee social,
followed by an active group, followed by a cognitive or task group, and concluding with a music
program.  The afternoon may follow a similar format but including a quiet time or rest period
immediately following lunch or mid afternoon.  To prevent boredom, theme programs are
integrated into the routines.  Different props, music, visuals and snacks can also introduce
variety within familiar routines.

Specific Activity Programs: There are many programs and activities defined for residents
with behavioral symptoms.  Snoezelen, Walking Programs, and Diversional Programs are some
examples of specific programs to address specific behaviors.  The Snoezelen program is an
environmental approach designed to sooth and calm individuals with acting out behaviors.  
Traditionally, it is a white room with soothing lights, sounds and smells to calm individuals with
agitation and anxiety.  Structured walking programs are introduced to re-direct and divert
those residents with exit seeking behaviors.  The environment is often altered to provide
diversion or appropriate stimulation.  A rest period and snack is integrated into the program as
a means to provide the resident with respite. Many facilities have formal diversional programs
whereby life skills are introduced as a group to occupy those residents with rummaging
behaviors.  Such programs are introduced in between formal groups as a means to divert

Individualized Activity Approaches: There are many residents with challenging behaviors
who may need an individualized diverting activity at odd hours or during non-group time
periods.  And there are many residents who would refuse to join a group or are unable to
tolerate a group setting.  For these residents, the activity professional can develop
individualized activity approaches.  Materials and supplies can be organized and made
available to the team.  If the resident likes to rummage or sort, sorting materials can be left in a
bin or basket at the nursing station. If the resident is soothed by Frank Sinatra music, a CD
and CD player can be turned on by the nursing staff.  The activity professional may develop
and introduce the intervention but the team implements the intervention when it is needed.  

Overall, there are countless lists of activity diversional ideas on the Internet and in the many
activity books and publications available to the profession.  These lists offer many activity and
program suggestions for the caregiver to introduce to the resident/client.  However, none of
these activities will be effective if introduced randomly and without consideration to the elder’s
needs, interests or abilities.  As a team, we can celebrate the effectiveness of a good activity
program, specific groups and individualized activities as an antidote to specific behaviors.  But
as a team, we shouldn’t forget the steps in identifying the cause of the behavior and
introducing solutions based on need.

  • 101 Things to do with a Person with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Fifteen Activity Ideas for Alzheimer’s Residents
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Finding Purposeful Activities
  • The Challenging Behavior Index
  • Activities Index
Save over 33%
off cover price
Subscribe Today
Corporate Discount
Save over 50%
off cover price
Download Corporate Order
Form HERE.

Join Now

This site is moderated by
Robert & Linda Lucas,
Owners of
Activity Director