Debbie Hommel's A.D. Tips
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by Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC, CRTS, Executive Director of DH Special Services
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Executive Director
DH Special Services
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.
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Activity Questions
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for Activity Professionals
in Long Term Care Settings

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Translating Assessment Information into Activity
Types - Part II
By Debbie Hommel, ACC, CTRS

In last month’s article, we agreed that the activity assessment is the starting point or the
foundation of the therapeutic process.  The Federal regulations (F-248) define the
importance of gathering very specific information about the individuals’ past and
present leisure and recreational interests with the intent to involve the elder in
programs tailored to their individual likes and dislikes.    Transitioning that information
into appropriate and individualized programming is an important step of the therapeutic
process which is sometimes overlooked.  In last month’s article, involving residents in
specific programs to meet specific needs was introduced.  Individual needs of
socialization, creativity, intellectual stimulation and more were matched up with
programs that met those needs.   

Another program classification system was introduced Ruth Perschbacher, Activity
Consultant and author, in 1986.  Ms. Perschbacher discusses the program
classifications if maintenance, empowerment and supportive in her book “Assessment,
the Cornerstone of Activity Programs” which can be purchased through Venture
Publishing.  These program classifications were later adopted by the National
Association of Activity Professionals in 1990.  As with the more specific group
categories of activities discussed in last month’s article, it is important to note that one
activity could have maintenance, empowerment and supportive aspects, depending on
how the program is implemented by the activity professional.  

Supportive Activities: As the word “supportive” implies, these activities are focused on
providing the resident with a sense of comfort and solace.  The comfort and support
can be provided through relationships, specific group involvement or through a
particularly soothing activity.   Traditionally, supportive activities are tailored for those
residents experiencing loss of some kind and needing an adaptive approach.  Sample
activities would include sensory based programs, soothing and relaxation programs,
spiritual activities and involving the elder in such a way that they feel safe and

Maintenance Activities: As the work “maintenance” implies, these activities focus on
using what skills the elder has remaining and keeping them functioning at their best
level.  The way to do this is to engage them in a variety of diverse programs which
exercise their physical, cognitive and social functioning.  Sample activities include the
standard, day to day programming of Bingo, exercise, discussion groups, craft
programs and cognitive games.  Maintenance activities are based in the old adage “if
you don’t use it, you lose it”.  

Empowerment Activities: This type of programming goes beyond the belief of “use it or
lose it” and encourages personal growth and reaching individual potential.  Choices,
challenges, and responsibility are part of the empowerment approach.  Sample
programs might include Resident Council, classes, and assuming leadership roles.  
Traditionally, empowerment activities are tailored to the more functional elder, with
remaining intellectual skills and ability to make decisions.  

The experienced activity professional becomes adept at adapting the program
approach to the diverse needs of the elders within a particular group.  The activity
professional is often challenged by the varying needs of those in attendance in the
program.  Understanding the classification system of empowerment, maintenance and
supportive allows the activity professional to engage each participate according to their
need.  For example, while conducting an active game, empowerment opportunities can
be offered to a higher functioning elder in the group who may be able to keep score or
lead some of the tasks.  Those elders participating for maintenance will each be given
opportunity to participate to the best of their ability.  The activity professional will provide
a supportive role for the more impaired resident by using more hands on assist,
placing them near the music or using multi sensory materials to generate greater

Again and again, it is the activity professional’s approach that makes the program
therapeutic.  There are countless activity ideas and resources available to our
profession.  However, they only become therapeutic when the activity professional
conducts an individualized assessment and utilizes that assessment information to
engage the elder in the appropriate program, in the appropriate way.