VARIETY CART – Choosing appropriate activities based on the needs of the residents, not the other way around.

In memory care, there is typically a monthly activity calendar that gets assembled and printed for the residents. This means that the recreation staff are planning some of the activities over a month in advance, even though the residents needs are changing daily.

You may lose, or gain residents. There could be illness or injuries preventing participation. A resident may have a rapid decline in cognitive ability, or they may just be having a particularly difficult day.

…There is simply no way to predict the needs of the residents prior to entering a memory care unit on any particular day.

One thing that I’ve found beneficial in accommodating the needs of a group of residents that range from high to low functioning, is a program called “Variety Cart”.

A cart is assembled with a large range of activities or tasks for residents to do individually or in small groups.

Some examples of items on my cart :

If your recreation department does not currently utilize these sorts of carts for programming, you may want to consider investing in one, or several, depending on the size of your department. Our facility has one cart assigned to each recreation staff, as well as several others that are available for church services (transporting hymn books), or for volunteers to use.

The advantage of using this approach in memory care is that you can avoid the stress of asking yourself “will the activity I scheduled a month in advance work with the group of residents that are awake and looking for entertainment/stimulation right now?”

How the program works:

You show up with your assortment of activities, and quickly scan the room to determine the needs of the residents.

If you notice there are enough high functioning residents available to participate, you can offer to set them up with a card or dice game that they can (for the most part) run independently.

A low functioning resident may enjoy simply holding a sensory object, or a realistic baby doll.

Someone else may enjoy sitting at a table and being asked for help to sort patterned squares.

A resident who used to enjoy art may want to use paint to fill in a colouring sheet (even better if you can print them on card stock paper!)

I have found that I am able to reach so many more people by using this approach.

Rather than scheduling one specific program, practically a month in advance, and then looking for residents who are appropriate for that activity on the day that it is scheduled, you will basically be doing the opposite when you add Variety Cart to your calendar.

You will be choosing your activities based on what is appropriate for the resident that you are trying to reach, at that moment.

Once you have got as many people as possible set up with activities, you can take that opportunity to move from group to group / person to person, checking in, and making sure that the activities you set up are keeping the residents engaged, and are being enjoyed.

Our goal is to provide meaningful programing to our residents, so in my opinion, choosing activities based on the needs of each resident, just seems to make the most sense.


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