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A Day in the Life of an Activities Director

A Day in the Life of an Activities Director

Jan. 25th, 2022

Activities Directors play an important role at nursing home and rehabilitation communities. Each day, they give the residents an opportunity to socialize with one another and interact with fun, brain-stimulating games.

Here at Saber Healthcare, our Life Enrichment departments run activities that help the residents stay active and engaged. Life Enrichment Directors facilitate these activities and plan the games and crafts for each day.

Meet Maggie Gapinski, Life Enrichment Director at Indian Lake Rehabilitation Center, and Stefanie Stephens, Life Enrichment Director at Falls Run Nursing and Rehabilitation.

“Activities covers a huge field, and it isn’t only planning fun and games. We also seek to provide the residents with their spiritual, physical, emotional, and social needs. This is one of the roles that goes with activities,” Gapinski said.

“Falls Run has a great team, especially because other departments actively support the Life Enrichment employees. We even have employees who ask to come in on their days off to come help with activities,” Stephens said.

How long have you been working as a Life Enrichment (Activities) Director?

“I started working for Saber in September 2021, but I’ve been in the field for over 30 years,” Gapinski said.

“I started my career working as a Director for a day health organization in Texas, and I did that for 12 years. In 2016, I became the Assistant Director at Falls Run. Then, I went on to become the Life Enrichment Director in 2019,” Stephens said.

What is your background and how did you decide to work in activities?

“My job has always been more of a Ministry than just a job,” Gapinski said.

Gapinski said she began her journey as a volunteer. She worked at a company for 7 ½ years and then decided to move to Indian Lake with her husband. Gapinski said she was looking for a new job to work at where she could help others, and Saber opened that door for her.

“I found out that I really enjoyed working with seniors when I worked at the adult day health organization in Texas,” Stephens said.

Stephens told us there were times when she would fill in for activities because they didn’t always have them. She found great joy in working with seniors, and eventually pursued a career in activities.

What does a day in your role look like?

Gapinski told us that every day is different at Indian Lake. Even though she plans out her day, sometimes things can change hour to hour.

Gapinski starts by planning out the day and visiting the residents to check up on them. After that, she has morning meetings at 9:30am. Gapinski always puts on a movie in the morning so the residents can watch something from their rooms.

“I plan for exercise class at 10:15am, and then as the day goes on we do a variety of things. Every day is different, and some of the activities we do are bingo, needlework class, aroma therapy, table ball, games, bible studies, social hour, crafts, and shopping for the residents,” Gapinski said.

Stephens starts off the morning by preparing the day’s activities that are on the calendar. She prepares a cart in the morning and gathers the residents so that way they can start activities in the dining room. Everyone comes back around 2:00pm and they do activities such as bingo and writing letters.

“Many of the residents at Falls Run like to communicate with their family members,” Stephens said. “We always help them out and keep in touch with their families.”

How do you manage your teams?

Due to the pandemic, both Gapinski and Stephens had to make adjustments to make sure the residents are able to enjoy activities each day.

Gapinski has 1 volunteer at Indian Lake. “In the past I have tried to place the volunteers where they have their talents so that way they can shine. If they’re having a good time, so will the residents.”

She also said she has a similar strategy for her staff members. She will discover what they’re good at and work on finding a place where they can use their energy and creativity to make a positive impact on the residents.

“I have a really great team: one full time assistant and one part time,” Stephens told us. “We had to help with visitation due to COVID-19, and I had to organize my staff to make sure we had someone on activities and another person helping the families.”

Other ways Stephens has managed her team was learning to start activities earlier to make sure everyone who wanted to participate could be present. As time went on, they could move activities into the dining room, which kept the residents socially distanced while they had fun.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

“I can plan and be creative to enrich the lives of our residents,” Gapinski said.

 “I like working as a team. We have a very positive and supportive work environment, and making the residents happy feels good,” Stephens said.

Name one challenge you’ve overcame within the last year.

“One challenge we’ve faced is trying to get the residents up and moving. Many of them have gotten relaxed, and I’ve been working to get them more involved,” Gapinski said.

Gapinski believes that our social lives are important because they help us connect to one another. There are many benefits to having an active social life, from giving us a purpose to preventing the feelings of loneliness COVID has caused a lot of people.

“People need people, and we need each other,” Gapinski stated.

One challenge that Falls Run had was that there was no way for the residents to communicate with their families due to COVID-19. Stephens and her team worked through this to help the residents have the ability to contact their families throughout the pandemic.

“I donated 5 tablets so that way the residents could do video calls. I noticed that the residents were changing behaviors, and I wanted to make sure that they could talk with their loved ones. Now, we use the tablets on the COVID units,” Stephens said.

The Falls Run community has expanded its efforts to give every resident their own tablet when they do group activities. This has helped the residents stay active and engaged during the activities.

What are your favorite activities to host for the residents?

There are many fun activities that take place at Indian Lake Rehabilitation Center and Falls Run Nursing & Rehabilitation. Here are some of the favorite activities that Gapinski and Stephens host for their residents.

“I really enjoy the special events that we have, such as the parties. I love to bring the residents together and celebrate with food,” Gapinski said.

She also mentioned that they have a social hour where they incorporate different activities together such as music. The residents are able to use drumsticks and a variety of instruments to get some exercise while thinking about the different music. They will have the opportunity to choose some of the music, and they enjoy each other’s different tastes in styles. There is also food at this event.

“During COVID, we started a monthly auction where we buy things at the dollar tree and the residents bid for the items using monopoly money. Everyone gets $250, and there is a grand prize for the person who is able to budget the best. This is their favorite activity because they get free stuff, and the items can range from snacks to jewelry,” Stephens said.

Stephens also hosts a horse racing activity where the residents can bid on different toy horses. The residents roll the dice to see how far each one moves. They name the horses and if the residents win, they will get double of what they bid. During COVID, they had to adjust the activity by moving it to the hallway and using teddy bears so everyone could see it. This is one of the favorite games of the Falls Run community.

Do you have any advice for someone aspiring to work in resident activities?

 “You have to really love people and working with seniors. Patience is also another quality someone aspiring to work in this field should have. It takes a big heart to work in this field, but if you love the residents, they will love you back,” Gapinski shared.

“You need to be patient and make sure you enjoy working with the seniors, especially through their different moods and personalities. It has to come from within you and you have to want to work with seniors to see them change day by day. If your heart isn’t into this job, you won’t be good at it,” Stephens told us.

What do you love the most about working for Saber Healthcare?

“I love the people I work with, everyone is wonderful. Every person really cares about the residents,” Gapinski said.

“Saber has provided me the opportunity to professionally develop. There are many people willing to help with activities, and I appreciate the supportive environment we have here,” Stephens answered. “Other places don’t have that.”

Saber Healthcare Appreciates Our Life Enrichment Departments!

Here at Saber Healthcare, we appreciate the energy and hard work our Life Enrichment teams put into helping our residents enjoy fun activities each week.

If you’re interested in joining our Life Enrichment team, check out the available roles near you.

Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.