Nursing home activity directors or staff members have incredibly rewarding careers. These individuals inspire, engage and enrich the lives of nursing home residents.

To celebrate National Activity Professionals Week, January 19-25, the Alabama Nursing Home association researched activity directors we’ve profiled over the years and identified five traits that make them successful.

1. Be prepared

Activity professionals don’t just plan games and social events, they are an integral part of the interdisciplinary care team. That requires reviewing medical charts, assessing residents’ individual needs and communicating changes to other staff members. In 2018, Activity Director Debra Brock took us on a journey through a day at work. Read the article to learn more about how she prepares for her role on the interdisciplinary care team.

2. Adapt to change

Nursing homes are constantly changing. If the last time you walked through a nursing home was 20 or 30 years ago, you wouldn’t recognize today’s nursing homes. The medical needs of residents are increasingly complex and nursing homes now care for people who are much younger than your typical elderly resident. That’s why nursing homes offer different types of activities than they did in the past. Janet Daughdrill has been an activity director since 1977 and seen a lot of changes during her career. She shared advice on planning activities for a wide age range in this article from 2016.

3. It’s more than bingo

While bingo is often the favorite activity at a nursing home, Activity Directors know it is far from the only one. That’s why these professionals offer numerous activities to meet the residents’ needs. Activities range from low-tech to high-tech, inside and outside, for men only or for women only. Read this 2019 article contributed by American Medical Facilities Management for a list of some of the many activities that take place at a nursing home.

4. Keep going

You can enjoy a long, fulfilling career as an activity director or staff member. Shonda Young has worked in this field for more than 20 years and earned her national certification in 2006. She shared how her career began and gave advice to those considering it as their career in this Q&A article from 2016.

5. Network with your peers

The Alabama Nursing Home Association offers the Activity & Social Service Auxiliary. The Auxiliary consists of activity and social service staff members at nursing homes across Alabama. The members meet regionally on a regular basis and have a statewide education day each fall. The regional meetings are an opportunity to share recent success stories from their nursing home, seek advice about something they don’t understand and enjoy informal educational programs. The statewide education day offers professional development geared toward the needs of activity and social service professionals. Jamie Backensto is a past president of the Auxiliary and discussed the importance of this group to her career in this Q&A article from 2016.

Bonus point: Volunteers are welcome

Activity departments welcome volunteers who are interested in making a difference in the lives of nursing home residents. There is an area where you can serve no matter your age or ability. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, contact your local nursing home and ask to speak to the activity director.

About National Activity Professionals Week:

National Activity Professionals Week is sponsored annually by the National Association of Activity Professionals to showcase the importance of the profession. This year’s observance is January 19-25, 2020, and the theme is “Lighting the Way.”