Once upon a time, activity and recreation programs in senior communities were typically low priority. Yet as the senior population surges, and seniors seek to stay active as a way of life, today’s senior living providers are rethinking their offerings to include wellness and life enrichment programs. In expanding their focus, many are finding they can’t go it alone. They’re looking for trusted partners to extend in-house resources and design an engaging, person-centered experience.
Exceeding Regulatory Requirements
Igniting the focus on life enrichment programs is recent regulation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that governs resident activities in senior living communities. Based on each resident’s care plan and preferences, facilities are required to provide an ongoing program that supports resident choices, including facility-sponsored group, individual, and independent activities. In designing activities, providers need to meet each resident’s interests and support their physical, mental, and psychosocial wellbeing, encouraging independence and community interaction. The regulation also requires that activity programs be directed by a professional who is a qualified therapeutic recreation specialist or activities professional with comparable qualifications.
An innovator in helping senior living communities reframe their approach to activity programs – and stay ahead of the compliance curve – is Texas-based Lifetime Wellness. Since 2005, the company has provided person-centered wellness, life enrichment, and recreational programming to independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation, and memory care facilities. The Lifetime Wellness model includes six dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, vocational, and social.
“Senior living providers who outsource part or all of their activity and wellness programs can not only meet but also exceed CMS requirements,” says Callie Whitworth, chief operations officer at Lifetime Wellness. The company has created three levels of opportunity for program enhancement: 1) ready-to-purchase programs and kits that can be easily implemented to better engage residents, 2) comprehensive programs with training and resource support for staff, and 3) full wellness department outsourcing, providing employment, staffing, and department management.
“In evaluating senior activity programs for prospective partner communities, we realized that many residents weren’t being reached,” says Susan McKinney, vice president of operations at Lifetime Wellness.“The same residents were attending the same activities, while those who most needed these programs were often isolated and disengaged. Staff didn’t know enough about residents’ life stories to support their interests and choices. Our goal is to help our partner communities develop person-centered programs that truly engage each resident in a way that is individually meaningful.”
To meet the special needs of residents living with dementia, Lifetime Wellness developed a quality of life memory care program. It includes a template to obtain information on residents, better understand their life stories, and personalize their care. The program also includes enrichment through art, music, cooking, technology connections, exercise and fitness, and aromatherapy. The company recently launched an essential oils line, with customized approaches to address depression, anxiety, and mood challenges.
Foursquare Healthcare, a company providing high-quality health care and rehabilitation centers across Texas, called on Lifetime Wellness to help implement its activity program. “Four years ago, we embraced an operations philosophy focused on increasing our hospitality,” says Dan Marick, Foursquare Healthcare’s chief operations officer. “We developed a hospitality mindset in many areas, from nursing care to our dining services, but our activity program still needed an overhaul. We realized we couldn’t reach our goals solely through our own resources, which included an administrator and an activity director.”
Foursquare partnered with Lifetime Wellness to launch a life enrichment program. “They acted as extensions to our staff and turn keyed our program for us,” Marick says. “The impact has been immeasurable. Residents look forward to events and comment often on the quality of programs we provide. Our partnership with Lifetime Wellness jumpstarted our ability to bring enthusiasm, excitement, and creativity to the program –versus what we were offering as an afterthought three years ago.”
Evaluating Program Needs
Marick notes that senior living providers need to weigh several factors in creating an effective activity and wellness program. “Consider whether you have the resources needed for program success. Evaluate how your budget could best be deployed. Audit activity documentation. Determine if you have a consistent framework, or if programs change as staff change. Assess what is needed to ensure you consistently deliver a high-quality program.”
Also essential is ensuring that the program is marketable. “Our activity calendar is a viable tool for reaching potential residents,” Marick says. “Families can readily see the wide variety of activities we offer – and be assured that their loved one will thrive in our care.”