When people are called to work with the elderly, it’s usually a calling. We often hear the call in all sorts of ways, including nursing and activities. Hollis didn’t even know what exactly an activities director was until they began working as a CNA and expressed interest in cross-training. Hollis truly enjoyed engaging residents with programs, games, and even special occasions. Hollis engaged with all cognitive levels and as the temporary fill–in activity person, they had to figure out ways to engage everyone. One day Hollis was visiting residents in their rooms. There was a woman who was mostly in the nursing care center because she had lost a leg, was diabetic and prone to urinary infections that sometimes made her confused. Most days she had a bee in her bonnet and would get dressed quickly so she could join her long-time friends in the independent living area. On this campus, all levels where interconnected so it was easy for friends to visit each other.
In time she began to become more confused and over time her friends got sick, moved to other areas and so on. This time Hollis stopped in for the monthly private visit to check in about what she thought about activities. She confided to Hollis, “I am concerned because without activities I think I might just shrivel up in this place! I know I need the help but I really do get bored in here and now so many of my friends are hard to reach!” Hollis reassured her, then she added, “Well, I would really love to have a dance party! Seriously, just because I can’t stand… I can still move around in my wheelchair! I remember when every weekend we would have a dance in our neighborhood, great fun to dance the night away to things like the “Twist”….” and she went on to include lovely memories of dances in her youth.
This woman was prone to bouts of depression and was often so depressed she wouldn’t open her mouth or talk to anyone, especially if one of her friends died. She would stay miserable for days and days, even on this day Hollis was to fill in as an activity director and had planned a dance party. Hollis was learning to experiment with the residents and try to manifest the things they requested. Hollis had even got the other nurses in on it and had people bringing snacks and at least one of their favorite oldie dance songs. Hollis created a dance list and was setting up the party as this woman pushed herself down the hall with her eyes down at her feet, clearly sad about something. Hollis knew this position and approached slowly but was sure to keep the cute sock-hop decorations in their hand. Hollis squatted in front of the woman and she wheeled around Hollis and went straight for her room. Hollis knocked and she pulled herself around, looked to see it was Hollis and nodded an okay to enter. Hollis knelt before her and looked up into her eyes, “How’s it going?” With sadness in her eyes, she looked at Hollis and said, “Well I lost three of my friends this week, can you believe God has taken three of my friends! I hope I am next!” Hollis knew she would say this a lot when people passed, sometimes losing a lot of your friends as you age is the hardest part.
Hollis sighed with compassion and looked into her eyes. “I am sorry you have lost your friends. Need a hug?” Tears dripped from her eyes and she shook her head “YES!” Hollis hugged her and returned to kneeling before her. “I know you’re sad about your friends but I wanted to remind you that today is the sock hop.” Hollis shows her the pictures printed up to decorate the dance party area. She smiles at Hollis and cries all at the same time. Hollis recognizes that it might be hard for her to have fun today at the sock-hop, even though it was kind of for her to begin with. “If you can’t come, I understand, you have lost three of your friends! I understand that your sad, although I will add that I bet your friends, all the way from Heaven, would cheer you on to dance the night away! Just saying.” Hollis smiles at her and she looks out the window as if to say “I don’t care…” Hollis leaves one of the decorations on her night table in front of her and walks to leave the room. She tells Hollis to close the door. Her room is just across from the room we plan to have the sock-hop in and she knows it.
We set up the activity anyway, we get as many residents involved and many of them are happy to watch videos of people dancing as well as each other. They try their old dance moves in their wheelchairs. All the while our friend’s door is still closed. She even refused her dinner. Hollis thinks about her and wonders. Hollis knocks on her door as the nurses enjoy a dance or two with residents. She says “Come in” in her grumpy tone and Hollis opens the door. The music pours in and she covers her ears. Hollis closes the door and looks at her.
“I miss you, I wish you could join us. Ya know they were asking about you out there because we all know how much you love ‘sock-hops’!” She looks up at Hollis and says “They are?” Hollis replies, “Yah just now the nurse was wondering where you were.” Not a total lie, except the nurse, had heard in reports that she was suffering with depression at the moment from a loss of friends and had confirmed with Hollis she was hiding in her room. She stares at Hollis and wipes away a tear, grabs her little decoration and wheels to her closet. She tells Hollis to dig in the back and Hollis digs out her old “sock-hop” sweater. Old and worn but still in good condition Hollis helps her put it on. She looks at Hollis again and smiles, this time with a determined look on her face.
As she opened the door to join the fun in the dining area, she looked up at Hollis and said, “I think your right, my friends would want to see me sock-hop my way to the end. God had given me more time. I gotta keep going!” This was a moment that Hollis realized that just how important activities are to residents. Their worlds are getting smaller every year and they often struggle with depression, hopelessness, and anxiety. They need regular and fun activities to boost their mood and therefore their personal healing. We know that good emotional health supports physical healing.
Activities are essential for residents and at Let’s Dance we know that as a Director you know exactly what your residents need! First, we want to say that we know you do things like Hollis did in this story all the time. We know that YOU, as a director, can make someone’s day and help them smile. Without YOU the residents would faller deeper into depression than they already do. We know that your work can sometimes go unseen but we want you to know, that we SEE YOU! Let’s Dance wants to honor every Activity Director!
We honor your effort and time as well as your work, that’s why we make it easy for you to arrange your visit online with our public calendar. You can easily book, saving everyone time and you can always come back to confirm dates & times (please watch time zones as we do travel across all time zones). We email you within 48 hours of your visit request with a confirmation of date/time, set up instructions, W9 and invoice.
Let’s Dance is booking most of the USA in the Spring of 2020 including California, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado. Also, we are holding our 2nd Annual Nursing Care Communities – Dancing Across America event. We will begin in Reno, NV at the “National Association of Activity Professionals Conference” and ending in New England by the end of Nursing Care Week in May of 2020. We are dancing with communities across the USA and if your in our path we want to visit YOU! Check out our public calendar to arrange your visit now! We have visits posted in Western & Central Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland and we will be back in Colorado in late July & August. Get your community booked now at our PUBLIC CALENDAR.