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Five Steps to Greater Interdisciplinary Involvement
A common challenge for the activity professional is how to get the interdisciplinary team to see quality of life and resident engagement in activities as a team responsibility. Common responses from other employees are that they don’t have time; or they ask if we will start fulfilling their obligations, if they will help us with ours. This has been a years long battle since I started the activities many moons ago. Here are five suggestions that can move your community to a more integrated way of thinking.
1. Know your regulations. If you work in a nursing home, there are at least six pages in the F-248 manual that address the role of interdisciplinary staff in supporting and providing activities. There are specific references to assisting residents to and from programs, providing independent and diversionary activities when staff are not present, and specific methods for staff to integrate quality of life interactions into their duties. If you work in a different setting, such as assisted living or day care, the references may not be as specific, but within these levels of care – the approach has always been more socially based and integrated. Having these rules and highlighting specific notes regarding the role of the IDC team is essential. If we can refer to the “law” which is the regulations, it gives some weight to our plea. If you need copies of the F-248 or state regulations for your setup, please email me.
2. Create alliances. You know you’ve worked too long with the elderly when you start using old sayings to make your point, but “You get more with honey than vinegar” works here. Attacking, complaining and pointing out what people aren’t doing is rarely well received and puts people on the defensive. Working together in a team towards the same goal is often more efficient and much more enjoyable. Most direct care staff are very focused on their duties and dependent on their duties. Anyone or thing that distracts them from their duties is seen as a nuisance. When employees are treated with the respect that their responsibilities are important, they often respond better. Mutual respect is gained over time and alliances are formed.
3. Focus on the benefits. The activity expert knows the benefits of each activity and can be shared as a means of motivating staff to encourage resident participation. The benefits should be related to how it will help the interdisciplinary staff in their daily tasks. For example, encouraging a resident to participate in exercise will increase range of motion and upper body strength, which may allow the resident to complete simple ADL tasks—dressing and eating. Engaging in programs that address behavioral diversion will keep residents calmer and less agitated, making everyone’s day easier. An important message to staff is that when a resident is assisted in a program or offered an activity, it is not “helping activities” but helping the resident, which should be the shared goal of the community.
4. Incentives. Many have tried to create incentives for staff to assist residents to and from activities. Raffle tickets or points staff give when they help residents in the program invite staff to refreshments at the party; or creating contests between units or neighborhoods with attendance awards has been done with mixed results. These are external motivators and focus on the needs of employees rather than the needs of residents. This approach worked more effectively when a special needs program was implemented. For example, a new sensory program called the “Sunshine Club” is introduced. Residents who should be provided with this program will have a sunshine symbol placed somewhere in their room for caregivers to see during care. to help this Sunshine Club resident. During the first few weeks of the program, when caregivers are assisting the resident with the program, they will receive a raffle ticket or other incentive used. However, once the program is established and residents are assisted and from routine care programs, the incentives are removed.
5. Be polite. With a smile, a thank you and a please, go far. We often get caught up in our responsibilities and forget the subtleties that contribute to a caregiver’s quality of life. There are some facilities with a “grumpy” atmosphere, where you can feel the general contradiction. Be the first to start changing the atmosphere and be the first to smile at others and initiate a polite attitude. They may ignore you at first, but eventually people will reciprocate.
Light is a task in which many share the toil.
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