July 2017

Music Across America

If you go with a patriotic theme in July, as many communities do, you may want to consider highlighting music during your month’s events. In addition to featuring local musicians throughout July, you can also get a musical history lesson by uncovering the roots of certain music styles that began in America.

Try highlighting blues, jazz, bluegrass, and rock ‘n’ roll with your residents. If you have a local music museum near your community, now is a great time to contact them for a presentation or an outing. You may also be able to recruit a local librarian or music teacher to teach the histories of these musical genres to your residents.

As you learn about each American music style, you can also listen to music from that genre. For an added fun activity, host a social or event that matches the theme of the music. For example, serve a New Orleans inspired menu as you celebrate jazz or try out playing the spoons or a washboard while celebrating bluegrass.
There are many opportunities to tie in music and new learning with your patriotic theme! Be sure to incorporate Companion Radio as well; we take care of providing the musical programs that keep your residents engaged and inspired.

July Activities

Here are a few activity ideas you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Golden Age Entertainment
July typically ushers in some pretty hot temperatures throughout the country. Your seniors may be feeling the heat and you may be worried about your usual outdoor activities, especially if you have an active walking club. To encourage your walkers to stay as safe as possible, consider taking advantage of our great exercise programming in the cooler morning hours of the day. From stretching to balance and everywhere in between, our exercise programs are accessible for seniors of any ability; you can easily adapt the exercises or add a bit of flair by using props such as colorful ribbons. Keep your residents safe without sacrificing their active lifestyle by turning on Companion Radio.  

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri
There’s something about a road trip memory that can bring people together. Take your own virtual road Trip Across America with July’s featured Games program. With a bit of audio clues, participants will guess the answer. We love that this game combines songs and other audio clips to keep participants on their toes, as well as that the game works well with all abilities within the group. Use Trip Across America on its own or as a part of your celebration of all things America throughout the month.

Something in the Evening – Serenity
If you are hosting an Independence Day celebration for the residents and visitors at your community, be sure to tune in to our Fireworks Music program. No matter how big your fireworks display, our music will add the patriotic flair that makes the 4th of July so lovely. Bring out sparklers along with festively colored drinks (try sprite with a dash of grenadine and blueberries) to make the event easy to pull together, but one that makes a big impact. But, don’t worry if you choose to skip the sparklers or fireworks; our music does just as well setting the mood of an event with slices of watermelon and red, white, and blue pinwheels. Happy 4th!

Beach Blanket Bingo…

When is the last time you took a look at one of the beach movies of the 1960s? They have the perfect blend of former Mouseketeers (hey there, Annette Funicello), wholesome music, and are a time capsule of the 1960s. This month, consider celebrating these classic movies with a Beach Blanket Bingo social or series of events at your community.

Before your event, host an afternoon movie marathon of selections such as Beach Blanket Bingo or Beach Party. Serve popcorn that is spiced up with sweetened coconut shavings, sno cones, and lemonade. Once your residents are up to speed on the beach movies of the 1960s, you are ready to host your social.

Decorate with colorful beach balls and hanging beach towels or swimming trunks. Consider having a sand sensory station for visiting kids (or residents) by filling Tupperware bins with sand and tucking in shells to explore. Simple beach pails can serve as table decorations, as well as caddies to hold napkins, condiments, or tableware. Serve hot dogs, cotton candy, and nonalcoholic pina coladas. Dance the afternoon away to songs of the 1960s, and be sure to play a few rounds of Bingo with beach themed prizes!

As always, bring along Companion Radioo to provide fun music and make the mood even more festive. Your residents will love this fun way to celebrate summer – and you will too!

June 2017

NCCAP Approved Training

The first weekend in June is designated as National Trails Day, but we think that supporting and exploring community trails is appropriate for any day – especially for your residents. If you have a walking club that is already active with hitting community trails consistently, awesome! Use this month as a chance to give back to the trails by bringing along garbage bags on your walks, collecting any wrappers or windblown trash.

However, if you have residents that want to walk, but prefer to do it independently, indoors or around your campus, you can still have a bit of fun with a monthly push to up your cumulative mileage. Consider revitalizing your current walking club by taking a stroll through National Parks, without ever leaving your community.

Choose a few famous trails in National Parks, such as the Trail of 100 Giants in the Sequoia National Forest, and track your cumulative steps (or miles) for your walking club. Post a map of your trail and mark your progress daily or weekly. You can kick off your featured trail of the week with a presentation that highlights photos and fun facts about the trail or region. You may even be able to set up a video call with a Ranger who works at the Park if you plan ahead and contact the Ranger Office.

Remember to give walkers an extra bit of encouragement by incorporating some “walking music” from Companion Radio. How far can you walk this month with your residents?

June Activities

Here are a few activity ideas you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Golden Age Entertainment
To celebrate Father’s Day this month, our Spotlight Special will feature songs about Dad. We love the idea of pairing an early morning Companion Radio special with a Men’s Club Breakfast or special coffee hour. Work with your dining department to serve breakfast in a special area of the community for your Men’s Club on the designated day. Consider requesting an extra special breakfast that your men would love – perhaps biscuits and gravy or a huge stack of pancakes – and enjoy some extra cups of coffee and good conversation all while Companion Radio sets the mood.

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri
June 15-22 is designated as Nursing Assistants Week, and your CNA staff would love to be celebrated with a little extra praise and attention. Consider encouraging staff to have some fun with your residents outside of their typical care routine. Each afternoon, invite staff and residents to participate in the Trivia program on Potpourri. (Of course, get this approved and coordinated with the nurse managers ahead of time.) Serve quick snacks like popcorn or cookies and pit teams against each other each day (day shift vs. evening shift, residents vs. staff, etc.). Keep it lighthearted and fun – these thirty minutes can go a long way to improve staff morale or just provide some good old fashioned fun.

Something in the Evening – Serenity
June 21st is National Yoga Day! Celebrate with your residents in the evening after dinner for some quiet relaxation set to Serenity. You can hire a yoga teacher who specializes in seniors to come in and lead the group, or you can simply do some slow stretches during your group. Focus on slow movements and quiet relaxation time throughout your time together. If the weather is nice, consider hosting the program outside on your patio area. Or, to increase relaxation, make the it a candlelight event, complete with battery operated flickering flames and lavender oils in your diffuser.

Meditation Station…

Have you ever meditated before? Perhaps you have and you didn’t even realize it. You may find a meditative state when you pray, when you run, when you hit your yoga mat, or when you garden. In any case, a meditative state is an important part of overall health for you and for your residents.

Meditation is using the breath or a repeated mantra to pay attention to the moment. By focusing only on the current moment, not a to-do list or any upcoming stressors, the person who meditates is able to relax. Again, you may not have a meditation practice in the traditional sense, but you likely are focused on the present moment when you participate in other activities.

The relaxation caused by meditation has many positive effects on health and wellness. Decreased anxiety, better memory, better digestion, and better sleep are just a few benefits that meditators report seeing in their daily life. In order to bring these benefits to your seniors, consider offering meditation opportunities throughout your monthly activity calendar.

You can utilize apps like HeadSpace that walk participants through meditation exercises, or you can provide a mantra for meditation breathing at the beginning or end of your group exercise classes. The team at Companion Radio also has included meditation supportive programs throughout our monthly calendar, including the Serenity Station which offers relaxing music to add to the atmosphere of your meditation groups.

Have you tried meditation with your residents or staff? We would love to hear more about how you make this approach successful.

May 2017


Do you celebrate Older Americans Month at your community? It’s a great chance for your community to take part in a celebration that happens in senior centers and senior living communities throughout the world. Not only can you highlight this theme throughout your month’s activities, it’s also a great way to partner with your Marketing team to bring big events to life for your residents.

In 2017, the theme for Older Americans Month is Age Out Loud. The push for the 2017 theme is to have seniors actively tell us what it looks like to age today. With more seniors working longer and living longer, aging certainly is much different than it was many decades ago. If given the chance, your residents probably have plenty to say about senior issues and advocacy.

We think that many Companion Radio programs are well suited to support you as you plan activities geared towards promoting positive thoughts about aging. Here are a few ideas for you to consider.

Senior and World Issues: Your early risers will love our Senior and World Issues program on Potpourri. Encourage conversation during the group, and use the content of the program to write down a few conversation starters and questions that you can place on the dining room tables and rotate every few days. Get the conversation going between your residents!

Music Specials: Reminiscence features Music Specials throughout the month. These are a wonderful testament to the fact that our seniors are no longer just about Lawrence Welk. Use Music Specials to assure you are meeting the needs of the residents in your community and that you aren’t stuck in an age that is no longer relevant to some of your seniors.

Serenity: Serenity sets the perfect atmosphere for quiet activities and reflection. Consider scheduling time for your seniors to write to their local government officials regarding aging and any other topics that they care about. Simply provide stationery, envelopes, addresses, and music to get things going.

How will you encourage your residents to Age Out Loud this month?

May Activities

Here are a few activity ideas you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Serenity
May brings warmer weather, and the perfect time to start your day outdoors. Consider hosting a Coffee Quiet Time before breakfast in the garden area of your community. Set up a coffee service outside and encourage residents to slowly start their day by taking in the fresh air and enjoying the warm sun. Don’t forget to have Serenity playing to set a relaxing atmosphere.Something in the Morning – Golden Age Entertainment
May is an excellent month to partner with a local high school to host an event together. This month, try playing ’50s and ’60s Jukebox and hosting a Car Hop inspired social with students. Decorate with some of your Sock Hop decorations (you know you have them in a closet somewhere), and have fun games planned like a hula hoop contest or a fuzzy dice toss. Intergenerational activities are always fun, but can become especially meaningful with high school students by simply encouraging reminiscing topics that students might be covering in history class. Try adding a few conversation starters on your tables to see if you can draw out that special connection.Something in the Morning – Potpourri
Mother’s Day is this month, but you’re certainly not bound to celebrate on May 14 alone. In fact, we think that celebrating Mothers all month long is well deserved and will be appreciated. Remember to celebrate all women, as not every woman will be a biological mother, but every woman has certainly played an important role in the lives of children and adults. Consider having residents gather for Mother Knows Best poetry, followed up by a poetry free writing session. Residents can become inspired from listening to poetry and then try their hand at writing their own.


May is full of blooms, and I love that the second week of the month is designated as Wildflower Week. I’m not sure about you, but my residents never need a reason to participate in activities geared around the colorful flowers of the season. As you look towards your May event calendar, try incorporating some wildflower fun into your days. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.


Wildflowers are the perfect addition to your craft sessions. Consider using wildflowers to make crowns, or daisy chains, to create a fun headpiece for your residents to wear. This is a great craft activity to also make intergenerational; just invite a local Girl Scout troop to enjoy the afternoon with you and your residents.

You can also use wildflowers for a flower arranging project, adding stems to creative vases – think empty cans from your dining room department’s kitchen. Or, glue wildflower stems and petals to cardstock to create mosaic inspired art. Seeds, varying in color and shape, also work great for this type of mosaic activity.

Chances are, there are a few places in your community that could use a bit of extra color. Work with your gardening club and maintenance department to create wildflower sanctuaries throughout the landscape of your community. Simply scatter wildflower seeds in the area, water, and watch those nooks and crannies come to life with beautiful colors, textures, and smells. In just a few months, you will also notice an increase in butterfly and bird visitors – your residents will love it.

Finally, take your wildflower celebration on the road by planning trips to see local wildflower patches. Forest preserves, parks, and even local butterfly gardens often feature wildflowers that are native to your area. Bring along a picnic lunch, camera, and sketch pads for residents to enjoy eating together and drawing their favorite flowers. If possible, arrange a tour with a botanist or ranger who is familiar with the wildflowers in your area.

How will you celebrate wildflowers with your residents, this year? We hope that you’ll turn on Companion Radio as you craft, garden, and enjoy your native flowers!

April 2017

An Unsinkable Ship

On April 14, 1912, the Titanic sank into the freezing waters of the north Atlantic Ocean. While this April 14 is Good Friday, you can still celebrate the Titanic during different programs throughout this month. Remembering and learning about the Titanic is not only interesting, it is also an excellent way to meld history, culture, compassion, and, even entertainment.

As you consider all the different ways to incorporate the Titanic into your programming, here are a few ideas that you may want to use or adapt at your community:

  • Hire a professional to come in and lecture about the famous ship. Depending upon your location, entertainers are sometimes available to perform dressed as a passenger and give their “first hand” memories of the event.
  • Watch video of the Titanic wreckage, as taken from an underwater camera. You can find short clips on YouTube or longer video from National Geographic. Your residents will love getting this close up view of what the Titanic looks like today.
  • Host a movie showing of Titanic; it’s a tear-jerker and well on its way to being a classic tale, even if it did take some storytelling liberties.
  • Dovetailing off the recent Titanic movie, try using the Titanic soundtrack throughout your programs and even in a program of its own. It features lively Irish inspired music and other tunes that are great for painting or other art based groups.
  • Team up with your dining department to host a special Titanic dinner one evening, complete with fancy attire, an extra special menu, and even a strolling violinist or quartet — no icy waters or sinking required.

How will you use the Titanic to reach your residents this month?

April Activities

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
Did you know that the last full week of April is designated as National Karaoke Week? Of course, you did – you are Activity Professionals, after all! I’m not sure about you, but I don’t need too much of a reason to start a karaoke program with my residents. An entire week dedicated to all things karaoke makes my heart sing. Consider planning a staff karaoke contest, complete with resident judges to celebrate. Don’t forget to incorporate Companion Radio into your karaoke fun by adding our Sing-Alongs program to your daily rotation all week long!
Something in the Afternoon – Pouporri
Don’t stop laughing after a few pranks are played on April Fool’s Day. In fact, the entire month of April is something to laugh about. Designated as National Humor Month, April is perfect to spend a little extra time giving your residents the opportunity to enjoy some comedic programs. Tune in daily to the Comedy program on Companion Radio. You can simply plan the event for some good laughs, or try upping your game a bit.  Try turning your dining or activity room into an Improv environment, complete with table cloths and an opportunity for residents to share their favorite jokes after the Comedy program is finished. Try an Amateur Stand-Up Showcase, giving all participants a fun prize and a round of applause.
Something in the Evening – Serenity
April ushers in spring for those of us in states still plagued by the fear of a March snowstorm. Celebrate the promise of new life by hosting an evening gardening group that activity staff (or CNA staff) leads for the residents after dinner. Each week, plan a new activity that can help your garden get started – think planting seeds in a potted herb garden, making garden signs, painting beautiful garden stones, etc. Have all the materials ready to go for the leader to make the activity easy for everyone involved. Don’t forget to have Companion Radio tuned to Serenity for a lovely addition to the atmosphere.

Celebrate Strings

Did you know that April is International Guitar Month? You may have actually known that, as Activity Professionals are usually full of such little-known trivia. However, have you ever taken the opportunity in April to celebrate all things guitar? This could be your year to bring a bit more history, culture, and music into your normal programming calendar. You just may find that you and your residents would love to learn more about the guitar. Here are a few ideas for programs to get your brainstorming started.

  • Ask a local guitar teacher to bring in different types of guitars and give a lecture.
  • Ask a music teacher from your school district to come in and give a quick lesson to interested residents. Some schools use ukuleles for students, and typically have enough instruments to let everyone in your group have one. Your teacher can teach a quick strumming pattern throughout the lesson and end with a song played together.
  • Tap into your local entertainer resources to find as many guitar variations as you can during your monthly performances. Remember to try traditional, electric, Spanish, bass, and other guitars!
  • Some musicians name their guitars; BB King named his Lucille. Use this interesting trivia about musicians and their guitar names while listening to them in action by playing a song from each famous strummer.
  • Make your own guitars with students or grandchildren during an intergenerational activity. You just need some rubber bands, cardboard (or a cereal box), and a bit of imagination.
  • Make meals more musical by adding a guitar soundtrack for the dining room. Or, for a special treat, hire a strolling strummer for diners.
  • Don’t forget to get Companion Radio in on the fun! We have many programs that feature music highlighting the guitar.How will you celebrate the guitar this month?

March 2017

A Feast to Remember

Some of my favorite times working as an Activity Director was in a community that served a large population of nuns. While I am not Catholic myself, I loved spending time with these women who were dedicated to service and goodness. I learned so much during my time with them, and my son still has a blanket, knitted by my very favorite Sister Louise, in his bedroom.
One of the best things I learned from my Sisters was the importance of a good Feast Day. If you are Catholic, you may already know that all Saints have a designated Feast Day to celebrate with ceremony and fellowship. For a Baptist like me, these Feast Days were new, interesting – and lots of fun.
While we couldn’t celebrate every Feast Day – there are so many – we did always celebrate certain ones that were especially important to my Sisters. One of my favorite days to celebrate comes just two days after St. Patrick’s Day. This year, try celebrating St. Joseph’s Day on March 19.
St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, is the Patron Saint of Workers and his Feast Day is well celebrated throughout many European countries with a St. Joseph Table. While, these tables are often celebrated in Europe, my Sisters knew how to throw together a lovely Table full of sweets, treats, and food for anyone to enjoy.
Try having a St. Joseph’s Table event at your community. With just a few splashes of color (red and white), you can invite families to bring in their favorite breads or sweets to leave at the table. Encourage your dining department to prepare an extra special meal, and ask your Chaplain to bless the Table before you enjoy your time together.
If you choose, you can extend the Table to your staff by hosting a special staff potluck. Or, you can ask for donations for the Table and take the items to a local homeless shelter. You can also have a Table that is just for Sweets and you can serve wine. Your St. Joseph’s Table can easily become a favorite tradition at your community.

March Activities

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Golden Age Entertainment
Consider hosting a before-lunch Happy Hour on St. Patrick’s Day, pub style with Irish appetizers and inspired drinks, as well as Irish Music during our Classic Radio program. Serve bite-sized Reuben sandwiches, beer cheese fondue with bread for dipping, and deviled eggs. Here in Chicagoland, our residents would never forgive us if we didn’t serve Green River as a drink on St. Patrick’s Day; though you certainly could choose to serve beer (if you are able to), or add a lime wedge and bit of green food coloring to traditional limeade or lemonade. Do a few Irish toasts (serious and silly) as you eat, gather, and listen to Irish music.
Something in the Afternoon – Golden Age Entertainment
R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Tune into From the Bandstand on March 25 to enjoy some classics from the classy lady herself – Aretha Franklin. Your residents and staff will enjoy hearing her songbook, and you won’t be able to stop a bit of a dance party. Take the time during and after the program to reminisce about what Aretha’s songs meant to their lives, as well as to talk about the trailblazer that she was for women in music.
Something in the Evening – Potpourri
As March ushers in spring, it can also usher in a bit of spring fever. Encourage your residents to experience a bit of spring travel with our Mind-Music Travel program. Set later in the day, Mind-Music Travel is an excellent activity option for this hard to fill time. If you don’t have Activity Staff at your community during the later afternoon and evening hours, you can appoint a CNA or even a resident as point person for tuning-in to Companion Radio at the program time. Consider having a pitcher of non-alcoholic margaritas to add to the travel atmosphere – tiny drink umbrellas optional.


Spring is on its way! Depending on where you’re located, you may already be seeing a few bursts of spring flowers. For me here in Chicagoland, I’m certain we have many more months of chilly weather before we see a brave tulip push past the snow. But no matter – spring is on its way!
Springtime is full of sensory excitement, and you can be sure that you incorporate all of it into your community. From colorful flowers to the sweet smells after a spring rain, your residents can enjoy spring in all senses. This month, try incorporating a bit of song for spring by listening to the best soundtrack of the season – the birds!
Songbirds will slowly begin singing this month outside. As long as you listen for it, you can have a bit of a springtime serenade. Try a birding outing at a local forest preserve with your residents, or simply just enjoy listening to your native birds by hosting a patio social. For those of us in the colder parts of the country, we can still enjoy spring’s song by cracking a window on a warmer day or by listening to bird soundtracks.
You may be surprised to see that many of your residents know the calls of different types of birds; use these residents to lead your birding experiences. For those who have never learned the songbirds in your area, these programs can serve as new learning and the opportunity to rally interest for a birding group at your community.

Birds are the Companion Radio of the outdoors – don’t forget to give them a listen this month! And for all your indoor needs, turn to your Companion Radio for other sweet songs of the season. Happy spring!

February 2017

Celebrate Snow Days

Here in the Midwest, February usually means frigid temperatures, blowing snow and snapping ice. While winter may be starting to thaw out in other parts of the country, here in the Midwest, we are just getting our winter boots and snow tires warmed up. However, with all of the fun parts of winter long gone (Christmas, New Year’s, and even Mardi Gras), February can sometimes feel like the longest month of the year rather than the shortest.

If you, too are feeling the winter blues in your community, try taking advantage of all nature has to offer by celebrating snow days full of activities that will spur plenty of childhood reminiscing. Along with hot cocoa, cozy blankets and afternoon movies, consider a few of these fun snow activities.

  • Take an outing to a local sledding hill. There’s nothing quite like watching kids speeding down a snowy hill and toppling out with snow covered grins. Your residents will love watching it from the warm bus.
  • Encourage staff members to have a snow angel contest in an easily accessible (and viewed) area of your community. Residents can vote on the best one.
  • Make snow ice cream! Be sure to use fresh snow.
  • Try out some ice and snow inspired science experiments. Note that some of these links are for kids; this doesn’t mean that we think your residents are children. Instead, these are some easy and fun experiments that will get ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from any age. You can also easily adapt these to be group activities that incorporate intergenerational visitors.
  • Consider lots of snow day reminiscing, complete with residents describing their favorite winter activities, what their family sled looked like, and their most memorable winter fashion choices.

Who says that a bit of snow can’t still be fun, even in February? Remember, your residents will need plenty of cozy time by your fireplace, so incorporate plenty of Companion Radio programs into your snow day celebration.

February Activities

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Reminiscence
February is a short month that is still cold and features plenty of reasons to stay in bed. You might notice that you and your staff are finding it more difficult to get up and going in the mornings, and rightfully so – it’s still dark out! Your residents might be feeling the same way, which can lead to frustrated CNAs who are working hard to assist with morning care. Play your part by allowing residents to get up and moving to activities in a more leisurely fashion. Have a coffee bar set up each morning for socialization, featuring The Wake Up Show program that runs daily. It gives your residents a reason to linger a bit longer and take the morning slowly.
Something in the Afternoon – Reminiscence
The Music Specials featured this month are fantastic! Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams and even Doris Day – your residents will love listening to these crooners, even if they aren’t the romantic type. Tune in on Valentine’s Day for the Love and Marriage special. Serve chocolate dipped strawberries and non-alcoholic champagne as you celebrate love and marriage together.
Something in the Evening – Potpourri

Never grow up by listening to Peter Pan this month during An Hour on Broadway on February 25. Your residents will enjoy listening in to the adventures of Peter, Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys as they duel Captain Hook. Consider serving a special drink (The Tinkerbell, lemon/lime soda with green food coloring and a lime wedge on the side) for the program as well as looking at photos of pirate ships.

Rolling Out the Red Carpet…

End the month of February with a bang as you celebrate Hollywood with events leading up to the Oscars. This year, the Oscars will be televised on February 26, 2017. But beyond watching the festivities with your residents, including red carpet fashion commentary, you can celebrate a bit of old Hollywood with events planned throughout the week.

If you can swing it, you might be able to plan outings to view at least a few of the movies that are nominated for awards at your local theater. To give residents a reason to get fancy, host a red carpet social with dainty petit fours and sparkling cider in flute glasses. Encourage residents to dress in their best and dress up staff members in gala dresses and tuxes by partnering with a local special occasion dress shop.

Reminisce about old Hollywood power couples and movies, or host an Acadamy Awards Trivia game. Pass out ballots for residents to cast their vote for best movies (of this year or years past) and host your own mock Oscars at the community, complete with imitation trophies. Your residents will love a bit of sparkle and hoopla to break up the dreary winter doldrums. How will you celebrate Oscar this year?

January 2017

Personalized Approaches and Music Interventions

With person-centered care and choice as the keystones of senior care, it is important that you find ways to personalize your approaches for resident activities and leisure. While we do offer many group activities, our role as Activity Professionals also includes providing recreational opportunities for residents who prefer small group, independent or solitary pursuits. When developing care plan approaches and interventions, or when educating care staff about independent leisure options available after the activity staff heads home, don’t forget about music!

Since you have Companion Radio, you already have a leg up in providing some wonderful programs for your residents. Don’t forget to use specific programs that may be of interest to residents in your personalized care plan approaches. Also, consider resident preferences when selecting which type of music you include — relaxing, upbeat, religious, etc.  Companion Radio has it all.

Listening to music and programming is just one way to incorporate individual approaches for residents, but don’t underestimate the potential for residents who want to play music. Having a piano available for residents to use in a common area, keeping small drums (like bongos) or other percussion instruments on the unit can be helpful for residents who have a musical past or interest. Keep sheet music out as well, while residents may no longer be able to play, they may enjoy just looking through and organizing the music.

January Activities

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
January is a great time to encourage healthy habits, even if resolutions don’t end up lasting the entire year. We love encouraging exercise for our residents; the benefits include better range of motion, increased strength, better balance, and even better mood. You don’t need to worry about planning a new exercise program daily for your residents to enjoy. Instead, try out our Low-Impact Exercise program every morning with residents. It offers exercises that are easy to adapt for ability, and everyone will have a great time. Finish up your session with a glass or bottle of water for everyone, and announcements highlighting the rest of the day’s programming options.Something in the Afternoon – Serenity
January is a wonderful month for everyone to just take a deep breath and decompress from the busy holiday season. Your residents may be feeling the “hangover” effects of the holidays as well, which means that having an afternoon quiet time session can help everyone to simply relax and be. Whether you choose a meditation topic or just have quiet independent activity supplies available in the community room, be sure to tune in to Serenity for relaxing music to set your calm atmosphere.Something in the Evening – Potpourri
If you are looking to reach male residents in a more meaningful way in 2017, consider kicking off your year with a genre that suits many men (and women!) – the Western. This month, our Western programming is in full swing thanks to January being National Cowboy Month. Grab your biggest belt buckle and hat as you plan to listen in to programs featuring Gunsmoke and Cisco Kid. This is a great program for residents to enjoy while winding down for dinner time and will gain momentum if you make it a consistent presence on your calendar for the month. Giddy up!

A Different New Year…

Long after your New Year’s Eve decorations and party hats are put away, another new year celebration awaits. Chinese New Year is celebrated January 28 this year, and if you haven’t taken time to observe this day with your residents in a while, make 2017 the year you bring it back to your programming calendar.

Depending on your choice, you can focus on Chinese culture and the New Year all month long or just the week of the big day. If you can’t swing a celebration on the 28th, no worries – Chinese New Year lasts a whole week, with celebrations rolling right into the Lantern Festival a few weeks later. This year, 2017, is the Year of the Rooster.

Consider inviting residents, staff or family members with ties to Chinese culture come in to speak about traditions or make special recipes. Work with your dining team to create a special dinner to ring in the new year, and be sure to involve families as Chinese New Year is an important time for families to visit one another and for reunions.

Be sure to include plenty of time for music and dance, listening to songs and watching dances from the Chinese culture. If you are lucky enough to live in, or near, a city that offers multicultural events, you may be able to plan an outing to catch a live performance. From paper lanterns to red envelopes to wishes of good luck, you can plan to offer residents a multisensory array of activities centering around this celebration.  Have fun!

December 2016

Getting Out and About

With all the holiday parties and stress at your community this year, consider taking time to slow down and focus on something different. The Winter Solstice is celebrated on December 21 and it’s a great day to plan events that highlight – well, light.

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and can be a wonderful time to talk about how even the darkest days don’t last forever. Consider pairing up with your social work team or chaplain to host a special candle-lighting ceremony that honors difficult times in the lives of your residents, celebrating that light always comes again.

If you are lucky enough to live somewhere that temperatures are comfortable at nighttime, consider lighting up the sky with wish lanterns. This is a great family event that is always memorable, and you can send up the lanterns as symbols of good memories from the past year or wishes for years to come.

Consider hosting a candlelight service to honor those who have passed away this year at your community, make an otherwise ordinary dinner a bit more special with candlelight, or pass out battery operated candles to residents with a note of good wishes from the staff. Make luminaries for your community’s outdoor areas, or invite carolers into the community for a candlelit sing- along. No matter how you choose to use light, use it well this solstice, and be sure to include Companion Radio as a backdrop to your celebrations as well.

Light up YOUR community!

December Activities

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
December features plenty of reasons to incorporate holiday programming, but some residents may not enjoy all of the extra festiveness. Whether they are feeling sad or missing someone, holiday activities may only intensify those feelings for some of our residents. Make it a point to feature programming that is not all red, green and gold glitter. Our Sing-Alongs are great options, as we only feature Christmas songs a few times through the month. Tune-in for a respite from all of the caroling this month.

Something in the Afternoon – Reminiscence
Help your residents wind down before dinner with a bit of holiday cheer. Our music specials are new every afternoon and all are wonderful diversions from typically busy and chaotic afternoon shift changes. Serve holiday drinks and turn the event into a before dinner Happy Hour for your residents to enjoy. Invite families and pass appetizers for an easy, yet appreciated, event.

Something in the Evening – Reminiscence
Ring in the new year with Evening Music on December 31. We will feature a festive selection that pairs well with noise makers, confetti, and fancy attire. Serve some bubbly and elegant desserts, and you have a great event that takes just a little preparation and coordination on the part of staff working during the holiday. Cheers to a wonderful new year ahead!

A New Take on Advent…

The Advent season kicks off at the beginning of December, marking the four-week countdown towards Christmas. While Advent certainly is a religious tradition, you don’t have to include scripture and prayer alone to celebrate it. Instead, you can mark this event by using it as a way to try out new Companion Radio activities. Who doesn’t love a good countdown to a special day? Besides being something new, your residents and staff can use your countdown activities as a way to engage with one another with independent leisure opportunities, all while getting used to Companion Radio‘s offerings.

To try it at your community, offer daily countdown activities that are designated on your regular monthly programming calendar. Each day, introduce a new program or activity that is hosted on Companion Radio stations. Try yoga set to Serenity or one of the daily games hosted on Potpourri. Work your way through each of the channels, trying new activities and old favorites as you and your community countdown to Christmas.

Consider making the countdown activities extra sweet by passing out a Hershey kiss or other small treat to anyone who participates. Or, hang an ornament on your activity room tree every time you complete a countdown activity – by Christmas, you will have 25 ornaments to remind you of your time with Companion Radio.

How will you celebrate the anticipation and countdown this season?

November 2016

Family Care

For most of us, including residents included, the holidays equal family time. Even with all the planning and preparing (and crazy Uncle Jim – we all have one, right?), there’s a comfort that goes along with gathering around a table and a turkey as the autumn leaves turn. For our residents, the holidays are looking a lot different than when they were the ones in charge of cleaning and cooking and hosting. This might come as a relief for some, or as a point of sadness for others.

As for the family members of our residents, they are enduring an entirely different set of emotions and letdowns about this upcoming holiday season. Does your community really understand the challenges of being a family caregiver? Early on in my career, I didn’t always pay too much attention to it. Families were a welcome addition to any of my planned programs and I regularly planned a monthly family event. I thought that was good enough and had wonderful family relations.

However, as my career continued, I realized that taking care of our residents goes hand in hand with taking care of their family members. November marks National Family Caregivers Month, the perfect month to start or renew your commitment to serving the family members that pass by your office daily. Consider working with your Social Work department to develop a family caregiver support group, as well as a family caregiver panel discussion for a mandatory training at your community. You, as well as your staff, might be surprised to hear about what these family members are going through.

While you are taking good care of your family members, consider working with your marketing and nursing departments to schedule a Family Medical Screening Day. Host vendors who can be on hand to answer questions, pass out health-related information and possibly test or screen family members. You can piggy back this event with a lecture series about family history and genetic medical conditions. November 24 is National Family Health History Day and can be the catalyst for this initiative at your community.

Taking care of your families is so much more than a well-intentioned invitation to family night. This month, challenge yourself to do better to care for your family caregivers. You might be surprised at how much you learn and, how much you may have misunderstood in the past.

November Activities

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Serenity
Chilly and darker mornings can leave some of your residents feeling a little less than motivated to get out of bed and start the day this month. If your residents prefer to stay cozy a bit longer before heading into breakfast, consider serving coffee in the living room for the early risers who could use a little pick-me-up. Have the staff turn on the Serenity to add to a calming atmosphere as residents get a slow and steady start to their day.
Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri

Beat the afternoon doldrums with a bit of music during our Slowed Sing-Alongs program. Great for residents with memory loss or attention challenges, this program encourages residents to sing along with classic favorites. Serve lemonade or hot cider to add to the appeal (and everyone always needs more hydration!), and enjoy an afternoon of songs with your residents.

Something in the Evening – Potpourri
When is the last time you used our Games program in your community? It offers daily games that are ready to go for your residents, which makes them ideal for using when your activity staff is otherwise scheduled or not at work at all. Educate the evening CNA staff, or a resident family volunteer, how to turn on the Games program for residents to enjoy after dinner. This month, watch for our Thanksgiving Feast Crossword – that’s right, an audio crossword that is sure to keep your residents guessing.

Using Companion Radio for Memory Care Programming

With November designated as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, it is a great time to remind you that Companion Radio is a wonderful resource to complement and supplement your dementia care programming. No matter if you have a designated dementia care unit or a mixed population with varying cognitive abilities, many of our programs help to increase cognitive and reminiscence programming.

Golden Age Entertainment offers dementia- centered programming highlighting musical reminiscence with programs like From the Bandstand or Spotlight Special. Any program on this station can serve as an accompaniment to events you already have planned or can stand alone. Potpourri offers ready-made activities such as Name That Tune or Games. Don’t forget to tune into Reminiscence for specialized music programs that can get your group in the mood for certain conversation topics (such as Thanksgiving or Veterans Day this year). Use Serenity as your go-to for supporting a calm and serene atmosphere in your living areas.

This month, add a note in your monthly newsletter about Companion Radio and how you utilize it for dementia care. This will reassure your family members that every detail on your calendar and in your community is focused on making better days for your memory care residents.

October 2016

When You Just Don’t Feel Like It: Ways to Energize Your Creativity

We’ve all been there – procrastinating on working on the monthly activity calendar because you just can’t think of anything fun or interesting. Sometimes these creative blocks can last just a few days, but if you have been in the senior care industry for a long time, you know that sometimes the creativity can wane for months or even years. While you can fake it for a while, you know when you are in a creative drought. You also know that it isn’t fair to your residents or staff to be so boring, and repeating the same events month after month isn’t cutting it anymore.

How can you energize your creativity when you are just over it? Here are a few of our time-tested ways to get your groove back when it comes to activity planning.

Give up the guilt and give yourself some grace
It is doing no one any good for you to be stewing in your misery or guilt. Instead, recognize that you are in a creative lull and then give yourself some grace as you develop a plan to fix it.

Go for a walk…preferably outside of the building.
Creativity and inspiration are not exactly going to strike when you are sitting in your office or running around your community, charting like a chicken with its head cut off. Instead, evaluate your commitments and see if you can plan an hour or so outside of your building for a bit of a quick recharge. Walk around the campus, take a drive to Starbucks, do something that gets you out of the building chaos and into a happy spot.Take a vacation
If that walk or Starbucks trip didn’t do the trick, you may be dealing with some burnout. Caregiver burnout happens to most of us at least a few times in our career, and it can cause you to dislike your job. Instead of continuing to feel exhausted and done, take time off to fill yourself up. Take your vacation days – every year! Time away from your community, doing things that you love, is how you fill yourself up so you can pour out your energy on your residents while at work.Find peers
If you aren’t in a local activity professional association already, join one soon. Taking time once a month to learn from your peers, share resources, learn new things and problem solve is one of the best things you can do to make yourself a better Director. Plus, you might just learn a few new ideas to try out at your community and get your creativity back on track.Use your Companion Radio
A creative funk doesn’t have to be all consuming when you have Companion Radio. Not only do we offer fresh programming each month, we also provide you ideas that can keep your calendar interesting and new. If you find yourself needing a new idea or wanting to try something new, consult our programming options first. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the wealth of information we have to offer.Don’t be frustrated at your current creative situation. Instead, attack it head on and get your wheels turning again!

October Radio Companion

Here are a few activity ideas you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!
Something in the Morning – Potpourri
It’s not October without a bit of suspense and even a scare or two. Keep it light by hosting Ghost Story events with our Books for Listeners program featuring some creepy and classic pieces of ghost-themed literature. Have a bit of fun by hosting these listening sessions around a “campfire” (or fireplace) and serve some before-lunch s’mores. If you’ve never taken the opportunity to dive into classic ghost stories with your residents, you might be surprised to see how much they love it.
Something in the Afternoon – Reminiscence

No matter where you live, if you are a baseball fan (and some of your residents probably are), it can be fun to get wrapped up in the World Series games in October. Pop some popcorn, make homemade Cracker Jacks, and enjoy our Baseball Music feature. This is the chance for you to get out your baseball sensory kit and reminisce about favorite players of your residents as well. Play ball!

Something in the Evening – Golden Age Entertainment
October typically features a high school milestone – Homecoming! A bit less fancy than a spring Prom, Homecoming is usually paired with a big football game, parade, and a dance. Start early to develop a relationship with your local high school and see how your residents can get involved in a bit of the Homecoming excitement. Attend the parade, take a bus to the big football game (bring signs supporting the home team, and some money to buy hot cocoa or popcorn in the stands), or invite a group of students to show off their Homecoming outfits in a fashion show at your community. Let’s hear it for the home team!

sweetest day

Celebrating Sweeties…

October is home to Sweetest Day, a day typically looked at as a Hallmark holiday with no real significance. In my years working with residents, I typically pass the day by without any recognition. For heaven’s sake – in my marriage, we let the day pass without even a glance! But this year, I wonder if you might consider making Sweetest Day a highlight of your monthly calendar. Here are a few ways to make it extra sweet and interesting for your residents.

Halloween Candy Taste Testing
Sweetest Day falls on the 3rd Saturday of the month, which means that it is the perfect calendar day to do a little Halloween candy quality control with your residents. Choose some holiday favorites and cut into bite sized pieces. Pass out the candies along with a ballot, or you could just do an old fashioned show of hands to pick the favorites. Assure that you have voted on favorites for different categories: chocolate, candy bar, non-chocolate, and any other category you can come up with. Use the winning candies as a guide for shopping for your safe trick-or-treating event at the end of the month.

Sweetheart Reminiscing
Sometimes Valentine’s Day can make residents who have lost partners a bit sad. But, since Sweetest Day is so much more low-key, you can plan a wonderful reminiscing group to talk about all things sweethearts. Ask about childhood crushes, high school sweethearts, and the ones that got away. Ask how residents met their partners and about first date stories, cures for break ups, and how to attract someone you have a crush on. Keep the conversation light and fond memories will have you all laughing!

Staff Appreciation
Sweetest Day can be a fun way to encourage residents to give thanks to the hardworking staff at your senior living community. Write thank you notes along with your residents and then pass them out to staff, along with a sweet treat that reminds them their work is important and appreciated.

Homecoming Fashion Show
October is a month for high school Homecoming dances, and if you time it right, you just may be able to swing a Homecoming Fashion Show on Sweetest Day for your residents to enjoy. Simply spread the word with friends or the local high school to see if you can gather 10-20 girls who want another excuse to wear their dance dresses. Residents will love seeing what girls are wearing today, and you can serve easy refreshments for everyone to enjoy together. Pass out flowers to residents and don’t forget to have your models walk out to yourCompanion Radio soundtrack!

Here’s to Sweetest Day – maybe it isn’t as pointless as we all once thought!

September 2016

Your Part in Recovery

I wonder if we could chat about something important, but a bit taboo in our industry. September is an important month to those in recovery from alcohol or substance abuse; National Recovery Month is sponsored and organized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and it’s an excellent time to evaluate your community’s role in supporting residents, staff, and guests with past or present substance abuse issues.

Almost five years ago, I started working at a new senior community. It was a very active independent living community, fully occupied with 600 seniors who lived in HUD subsidized apartments. It had a 4-year waiting list and work hours that suited my new role as Mama so much better. I loved working there – the residents were engaged and involved, and administration was supportive of all things that embraced life enrichment.

I was surprised, though, to note that Alcoholics Anonymous meetings were held weekly in one of our community spaces. Even more so, I was surprised that those AA gatherings were announced in the resident newsletter and monthly activity calendar. “Well, how else are people who need the service supposed to know about it if we encourage a culture of quietness and shame,” said our Director of Social Work. It was a valid point, and I felt embarrassed for being so worried about it.

The AA meetings that are held weekly at that community are sacred. The meetings are an important touchstone for many residents, family members, and people from the outside community during the course of their week. Residents attend these AA meetings who have addiction issues from last year and from 50 years ago. There is no judgment, there is privacy and there is support. It is a vital part of our community’s life.

How does your community support or engage those with a history of addiction? Our residents have lived 60 or more years before they head into our doors, and some of those residents may have had alcohol or substance abuse addictions that have ramifications on their current physical, emotional, or cognitive health. While you may not choose to host a weekly AA meeting at your community, it is worth talking with your Chaplain and/or Social Worker about your addictions-support plan to see if you are meeting the needs of those who walk through your door. It is worth it to address it with grace, but without shame.

September Radio Companion

SeptemberHere are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
Check out Books for Listeners this month for a five-part series featuring a work from American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs. This writer was well known and loved for his creation of the character Tarzan. You may even consider tying in a trip to see the live-action Tarzan movie as well this month. While the movie came out in early July, you might still be able to find it at a dollar theater or elsewhere.

Something in the Afternoon – Reminiscence
We love September’s music special, full of patriotic music to inspire. Use this time together to share a moment of silence and remember September 11, as well as to celebrate this wonderful country we have the opportunity to live in. You can add to the remembrance by lighting a candle at the beginning of your ceremony that remains lit throughout the month (thanks to battery operated flame), as well as photos of residents who have served in the military or who have family members who have served. If your community is closer to Ground Zero, you may choose to highlight photos of any family members or friends who were lost on that day in 2001.

Something in the Evening – Potpourri
Have you added our Mind-Music Travel program to your evening activity rotation yet? Residents love this program, and your caregivers can easily click on Companion Radio for those interested. If possible, leave out snacks for the caregivers to serve (and share) as well as a pitcher of drinks in the nearest fridge. It’s a low-stress activity set up to give your seniors something to enjoy in the evening, all while freeing up caregivers to assist those residents who prefer to start their nighttime routine early.

Ready, Steady Balance: Falls Prevention Awareness Day

September 22 is designated as Falls Prevention Awareness Day by the National Council on Aging. As you know from working with seniors, falls are a major cause of emergency room visits, surgeries, and unplanned hospital stays. Best practices, and even state and federal regulations, require most senior living communities to have active Fall Prevention Committees, interdisciplinary groups of staff members that review fall risks and incidents at the residence.

This year, start planning to celebrate Falls Prevention Awareness Day at your community with a variety of activities aimed to educate and keep everyone – staff and residents – safe while at the community. Work with social work to plan family education nights about fall risks and procedures, as well as with nursing to plan lectures for residents.

Enlist the help of maintenance to do apartment evaluations looking for any environmental concerns that may make falls a possibility. Ask your therapy department to offer a balance check or fall risk assessment workshop where residents can be evaluated for potential risk behaviors or conditions.

While you are coordinating interdisciplinary activities revolving around fall prevention, don’t forget to take a good look at your own department. Check your activity spaces – are you using rooms full of boxes, knick knacks, or other environmental risks that could cause a slip or trip? Check your bus and transfer protocols while on outings – do you have safe transfer techniques and protocol in place to know how to handle a fall offsite if it should occur?  Check your office and activity supply closets – sometimes it can look a little crazy in our storage spaces, but it is important to your staff’s safety that you have an unobstructed walkway through your bins, shelves, and boxes.

Falls are no joke, and can cause irreversible trauma to residents, guests, and staff members. Do your part to put fall risk education in the spotlight this month.

August 2016

Quiet Afternoons

Throughout my time as an Activity Director, things always got a little quieter in the afternoon. While the afternoons provided some much needed office time and a lull to take a breath after typically busy mornings, my staff and I always found ourselves a bit bored after lunch. You see, most of our long term residents needed (or preferred) a nap after lunch while our short term rehabilitation residents were back in the therapy gym. The usually bustling hallways were chirping crickets once the lunch room was closed.

Is your community a little quieter in the afternoon? If so, you can certainly use it to your advantage, scheduling 1:1 or smaller more intimate groups for the residents who prefer to be up and at ’em after lunch. During these small groups, consider bringing Companion Radio along for the ride. Not only do many of our afternoon programs suit smaller group dynamics much better, but our programs can be a wonderful resource that residents can learn to even start on their own, giving them independence and autonomy over their afternoon programming.

You don’t have to use our small group programming options for your afternoons. Instead, you can opt to turn on Serenity for calming music to enhance the peacefulness of your already quiet hallways, common areas, or gardens. Even if there are not residents around to enjoy the programming, Serenity works great for staff as well, and can set a calming tone for end of shift charting or cross-over meetings.

How do you harness the quiet of the afternoons in your community? Are you using your Companion Radio to help break the silence?

August Radio CompanionAugust


Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of residents’ ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
After the morning meal, enjoy a little down time before the hustle and bustle of your daily programming begins with our 30 minute Story Tree. It’s a great way to usher residents into a common area. Bonus points if you use Story Tree as a precursor to a writing workshop where residents can either finish up the story they just heard or create one of their own. Hold an Author Corner celebration in a few months to show off their creations.

Something in the Afternoon – Reminiscence
Do you sometimes struggle to find quality men’s programming that doesn’t revolve around sanding wood or matching nuts with bolts? I know that when I try to find programming that will appeal to my male residents, I am sometimes frustrated that every resource assumes my men want to either fish, woodwork, or talk about farming. This month, check out the Men’s Club Music Special on August 11th as we feature the Little Rascals. This will be not only entertaining for your guys, but also a great jumping off point for male-centric reminiscing about clubhouses, childhood friends, and “no girls allowed” moments.

Something in the Evening – Potpourri
Spend your summer nights with a bit of Broadway during the An Hour on Broadway program. We feature classics for your residents to enjoy, and keep the content fresh so that residents are not bored. Brand new this month, we feature the smash hit Chicago.  Serve lemonade or water with wedges of citrus for a refreshing treat to keep residents hydrated and healthy this season.

The Best Time of the Year…

summer_harvest pic

I grew up in a rural farm town in central Illinois, which means that I am almost always homesick for fields of tall corn and irrigation silhouettes in front of an orange setting sun. Even though I have lived in the Chicago suburbs for my adult life, you just can’t take the country out of this girl, especially during harvest season.

August really is a wonderful time of the year. Corn grows taller than most adults and, green beans and tomatoes are picked and eaten while still warm from the sun. The state fair rolls into town as well, full of freshly groomed cows and sheep, along with lemon shake ups and pulled taffy.

If you are working in a community that hasn’t capitalized on the wonderful that is August, let this be the month that you connect with residents through fresh food and memories of a season right on the verge of changing. If you have farmers in your midst, they will especially appreciate a reminiscence group about harvest-time and how they used wives tales and the Farmers Almanac to forecast just the perfect time to harvest. Ladies will share memories of snapping green beans and shelling peas, making olde-fashioned homemade pickles and braiding wheat to make wreaths or even baskets. It’s a reminiscing and sensory combination that you can plan the entire month around.

Visit a local farm. Stop by a market to purchase fresh produce and flowers. Snap green beans, shell peas, or shuck sweet corn for the dining department – extra credit if you use big steel tubs and do it outside with sun tea brewing on the table. Visit the state fair or local carnival to sample cotton candy and lemon shake ups.

How will you squeeze out the last (and best) bits of summer time in August this year?

July 2016

Change It Up!

Activity Professionals are known for our creativity, compassion, and energy. With all the good that comes from organizing an event calendar full of opportunities for every resident group and family member, sometimes even the best of us can get stagnant. It’s easy to slip into a programming rut, especially when much of our jobs are based on routine. However, the routine that helps keep you organized and residents engaged can easily turn into doing the same thing in the same way until the end of time.

If you think you are in a rut creatively or programmatically, don’t fear! Once you recognize a rut, it is fairly easy to gently break out of it to move on to better things for your community. If you are feeling a little stagnant, try using Companion Radio to kick-start your change. Here are a few easy ways to try something new and creatively recharge.

Relocate Your Radio
Companion Radio customers with FM transmit systems can use their radios in various locations throughout the community. Companion Radio customers using Console radios find that a living room or community space is best for residents to enjoy group programming. FM transmit customers should consider moving the Radio into the dining room for meals or into the therapy room to add some extra energy to afternoon sessions. Use your FM transmit Radios during small groups and 1:1 interactions in resident apartments. Try using your FM transmit Radios in new and varied places to see how residents and staff react.  And, if you find you need more radios, don’t forget to call Companion Radio to order more!

Try a New Program
When is the last time you turned on a Companion Radio Poetry program or tried out a Comedy show? Challenge yourself – and your residents – to trying out one new Companion Radio program per week for a month. You just may find some new favorites or be pleasantly surprised at how well a new program went over with your residents.

Say No To Silence
Whenever possible, bring Companion Radio into your group programs that have long stretches of silence, such as crafts, gardening, meditation, or even prayer. Use Companion Radio, tuned to the Serenity Station, as a quiet complement to your programming. You may not even notice its presence, but some of your participants may love the additional atmosphere.

How will you use Companion Radio to break out of your rut this month?

 July Radio Companion


Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri Station
This month, our Books for Listeners program features Mark Twain, and your residents are going to love it! There’s certainly something all-American about Twain, and his works romanticize summer and all the adventure that awaits during these warm months of the year. Save plenty of time afterwards for reminiscing about favorite summer childhood adventures (who has swam in a creek? Who used to play in the woods with nothing but a few friends and imagination to keep you busy all day long?) and drinking cups of iced tea on the patio. You can’t get much more summer than that!

Something in the Afternoon – Reminiscence Station
Celebrate Independence Day all afternoon with the accompaniment of our Fireworks Music. Enjoy refreshing drinks, like lemonade with blueberries and festive snacks like a shortcake bar complete with whipped cream, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and any other red, white and blue toppings your residents may love. Try out sparklers on the patio, along with other vintage fireworks favorites like snappers or even colored smoke bombs. Invite families to celebrate with residents before they head off to their evening fireworks displays as well.

Something in the Evening – Serenity Station
I know that I write often about the Serenity Station in the evenings, but it truly is a wonderful way to relax residents in those tricky hours. This month, I encourage you to take advantage of the cooler evening air for your residents, hosting Firefly Watch Parties on the patio (or from the bug-free safety of the screened in porch). Count fireflies, watch for shooting stars, and keep eyes peeled for other summer nightlife. Your residents will love this opportunity to relax and just observe nature.

Stargazers and Moon Watchers…


The heat of July may be oppressive where you live, keeping you and your residents firmly indoors for most of the day. However, don’t let the summer heat keep you from fun outdoor activities. With a little bit of advance planning, you can find yourself leading your residents outdoors…in the moonlight.

July features warm nights, and your residents may have great memories of stargazing on a blanket, either as a child, or adult. Plan a stargazing evening, building up the excitement with plenty of stargazing reminiscence groups and constellation presentations throughout the month. Invite family members to join you, and plan for a few extra staff members to work later hours with you on the night of your event.

Have candles (or battery operated candles, if safety is a concern) lit on your patio or chosen outdoor venue, along with some constellation maps for residents. Invite a representative from a local stargazing club or planetarium to lead your stargazing evening, or simply download a stargazing app that you can use to point out stars for residents to enjoy. Serve lemonade in clear cups with glowing ice cubes (you can purchase these online) or popsicles.

A stargazing evening may end up being an annual event at your community – it is special because it is out of the ordinary and residents of all abilities can enjoy it!

June Radio Companion


Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
I used to love a good tall tale, and I still do. There’s nothing quite like an exaggerated story to get the imagination flowing. Tune into our Books for Listeners this month as we feature Tall Tales that everyone will enjoy. After listening, encourage residents to try spinning their own tall tale. You may even try to plan a fishing outing this month (to celebrate Fishing Week, the first week of the month) and have residents concoct a tall tale of the biggest fish that got away during your ride back home. It will be fun to see how many caregivers and staff members your residents can fool into believing that you all were this close to catching the big one.

Something in the Afternoon – Golden Age Entertainment
Welcome summer and beat the early heat with a fun social for residents and staff to enjoy. Incorporate our Sock Hop program to set the atmosphere for an old fashioned soda shop social. Work with dining to plan a few signature drinks (try rootbeer or coke floats, or grab some bottles of flavored phosphate sodas for mixing) and decorate with black and white checkerboard patterns and splashes of pink. Have a staff hula hoop contest and a resident twist contest to entertain the masses too! Your residents will love this fun gathering and you’ll love that this event doesn’t require a lot of planning, but is almost always a hit. Have fun!

Something in the Potpourri – Serenity
Evenings can be so challenging for our residents and the caregivers who work the 2nd shift. Beyond extra agitation and confusion for those who are living with memory loss, there are also spikes in pain and general restlessness once dinner has been put away. This month is Aquarium Month and the perfect way to sneak in an extra distraction that may calm your residents in the evening hours. Try out adding an aquarium or two to your living areas for decreased anxiety and increased calmness. If you already have an aquarium, try adding a new fish or just using the month to create some awareness for this calm area of your community.

Add relaxing programming from our Serenity Station to increase the zen factor. Here’s hoping this month brings extra relaxation for your entire community.

Strawberry Festivals for Everyone…


There aren’t too many things that scream “summer is here” than strawberries. These little red seeded harbingers of warmer temperatures and sunny skies are delicious and the perfect centerpiece for a resident party or a family event. With just a bit of advanced planning, you can throw a Strawberry Festival that will surely be a hit and wind up as an annual event at your community. You can make it intergenerational by adding Scout players or grandchild invites, and even turn it into a marketing event by asking local referral sources to stop by.

While you can make this event as intricate as you would like, it is best to start out with the basics – fun things to do and to eat.

Serve: A strawberry shortcake bar, of course. Allow guests to make their own shortcake creations, giving them plenty of topping choices that range from whipped cream to chocolate sauce, blueberries to sprinkles.
Drink: Strawberry lemonade, complete with lemon and strawberry garnishes.
Play: Pin the Seeds on the Strawberry, a silly take on Pin the Tail on the Donkey.
Write: Encourage residents (and family members) to write down favorite summer memories on strawberries that you have pre-cut from construction paper. Display these memories on your community bulletin boards, or use them as conversation starters during your next reminiscence group.
Hear: Play Companion Radio to set a festive tone for your event.

Here’s to strawberries and to the events that your community enjoys this month!

NCCAP Approved Training

Companion Radio was made to enrich the lives of the seniors who use it, as well as to make life a bit easier for the Activity Professionals who utilize it. We know that the days at your community are busy from start to finish; between care plan meetings and charting requirements, activity calendar planning, event preparation and everything in between, you are packing a lot into your schedule. If you are certified through the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP), trying to get offsite to attend an approved continuing education training can seem nearly impossible.

But we are here to help.

After months of working closely with the training certification department at the NCCAP, Companion Radio now offers 8 training modules that are pre-approved for 1 hour of credit each. Now, from the comfort of your office, you can earn up to 8 hours of continuing education credits on any of these topics:

  • Communicating with Dementia Residents
  • Death and Dying
  • Dementia: Therapeutic Environment
  • Managing Dementia Behaviors
  • Pain Assessment
  • Psychology of Aging
  • Quality Assurance
  • Stress Management

The modules are easy to access on the Companion Radio website; just login, download the module of your choice, and get quality information that is pre-approved to aid in maintaining your certification. If you are stuck and can’t figure out how to access the modules, don’t worry – just contact Henry, our Quality Service Director at 800-499-4040.

Even if you are not certified through the NCCAP, you can still utilize the modules for continuing your own education on the ever-changing topics about aging. Further, many states now require Activity Directors and Assistants to maintain records of ongoing education throughout the year; you can make these modules a part of your yearly plan to keep your community’s staff well informed on important topics.

We are so excited to offer you this service and hope that you take advantage of it sooner than later. Be sure to tell us what you think, too!

May Radio Companion

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
May is Older Americans Month! No matter the type of care that your community provides, everyone can celebrate together in May. Consider choosing a wellness centered theme for your celebrations throughout the month. If you’d like to link up directly with the Department of Health and Human Services, use their theme of Blaze a Trail. They are hoping that communities will promote activities, inclusion and wellness for older Americans. You can start by kicking off each morning with Companion Radio‘s Senior and World Issues program on Potpourri, followed immediately by Health and Wellness Programming. An informed older American is one that can make responsible decisions to impact their health and the health of others. Serve coffee and see if you can encourage your participants to think of a service or advocacy project to support the Blaze a Trail theme.

Something in the Afternoon – Reminiscence
Take some time to recognize the veterans in your community with our Veterans Salute program. You can honor not only your residents that are veterans, but also any staff members who have served. It is also nice to recognize the family members of those who have served; it is hard to keep a dry eye watching residents talk about how hard it was to send their sons to enlist or hearing residents speak about the time away from a spouse that served. You can light a candle in honor of veterans and those that support veterans before or after the program, and have a small social with refreshments planned for after the program to keep the moment going.

Something in the Evening – Potpourri
Try gathering a few residents to enjoy a Mystery program in the evenings after dinner. You can bill it as Mystery Club and decorate with a few magnifying glasses and notebooks for residents to take notes. This activity can run itself with minimal help from care staff (they’re really busy during this time of evening, but can turn on Companion Radio). The Mystery Club can offer your residents something engaging to participate in while they wait for any bedtime care or assistance. Mystery Club can also be used as a care plan intervention for residents that prefer to stay up a bit later than most.

Quality of Life Training for Your Entire Community…

If you are an Activity Director, you are an important part of the ongoing training for your activity staff. You are also a vital part of the training plan for all staff in your senior care community. In fact, with SNF federal guidelines dictating that all staff are responsible for the quality of life for all residents, the Activity Director often needs to make time to train CNAs, nurses, housekeepers, and even maintenance staff on how recreation and leisure pursuits pertain to their role with the residents.

Finding time to plan these quality of life inservices can be next to impossible. Not only are you busy throughout the week, planning a staff training that is engaging and informative is a bit different than planning a resident activity. It takes a bit of finesse and a lot of extra research. But, with Companion Radio, we’ve made it easy for you.

By now, you may have heard that 8 of our training modules are pre-approved for 1 hour of continuing education credit each with the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP). Each of the modules listed below are accessible on the Companion Radio website and can aid in certification for Activity Professionals who are already certified through NCCAP: Communicating with Dementia Residents, Death and Dying, Dementia: Therapeutic Environment, Managing Dementia Behaviors, Pain Assessment, Psychology of Aging, Quality Assurance and Stress Management.

However, the training modules available from Companion Radio go beyond these 8 topics. In fact, Companion Radio offers more than 20 education modules on topics that range from dementia care to back safety. These modules are designed to meet federal training requirements, as well as give well researched and updated information to staff in an engaging and easy to understand way. It’s literally a ready-to-go training. You just need to add the staff and a training sign-in sheet (refreshments for extra credit).

If you haven’t checked out the Companion Radio training modules recently, be sure to do so before you plan your staff trainings for the upcoming quarter or year. This is quality information that is designed to educate and inspire your community staff – don’t miss out!

Partners in Crime

April showers bring more than May flowers. In fact, this entire month is dedicated to celebrating two of the biggest supporters of Activity Departments across the country – Social Workers (SWs) and Occupational Therapists (OTs). We think you should jump in the party (plan the party, in fact) to show these important professionals how much their support means to you and your team.

Maybe it’s just because I have always been fortunate enough to work with OTs and SWs who were not only amazing at their jobs, but who were also always quick to make a referral to support my activity department. Or maybe it is because I’ve only known kind, funny, and smart OTs and SWs that calls me to write an entire article on why you should celebrate these professions in April. I genuinely hope that you have a wonderful working relationship with these two important parts of your Interdisciplinary Team. If you don’t have a great one, perhaps April is the month to make a fresh start and see how you can work together.

This month, be sure to plan celebrations for both your Social Work department and your Occupational Therapy department. These can be open house events where the residents have the opportunity to enjoy some refreshments with the guests of honor and share their appreciation for the work. Encourage your Administrator to make an appearance and share words of appreciation as well.

Take time this month to get together with the SW and OT Department Heads and review your working relationship. What is working between you and what isn’t? Cover communication, referrals, and co-treatment plans. Do it over lunch or over an afternoon snack and plan for at least 45 minutes to be sure no one feels rushed. This relationship grooming and check-in is important as you continue to work with one another to best serve your residents.

During your check-in meeting, be sure that you discuss Companion Radio. Assure that both the SWs and the OTs are aware of the service, and brainstorm together, how each department could use the programs offered for 1:1 interactions or small groups. Remember, Companion Radio isn’t just for the Activity Department – many other disciplines can find it as a beneficial (and fun!) tool.

Have fun celebrating your biggest fans this month, and making sure that the relationship stays positive.

April Radio Companion

Here are a few activity ideas you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
April brings warmer temperatures and the chance to take your residents outside more. A morning walking club can be a wonderful way to encourage exercise, fresh air, and social connection. However, before you and your residents lace up to hit the trails, be sure you are incorporating some stretching time. You can tune-in to Companion Radio in the mornings to stretch out before heading out on your walk. Remember to start out with slower paces and shorter distances, increasing your duration slowly over time. By the fall, your group will be walking farther than anyone expected.

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri
April isn’t a super serious month. It is, after all the month of the prankster’s favorite day (April Fool’s Day!) and the entire month is National Humor Month. Why not take advantage of the chance to get a little silly by hosting regular comedy club events with the Comedy program on Potpourri? You can utilize Companion Radio to add some laughs to the group of residents hanging out in the hallway, clamoring to get into the dining room. Serve some drinks, click on Companion Radio, and enjoy an impromptu program that everyone is sure to enjoy.
Something in the Evening – Serenity
April is also Stress Awareness Month. Now I don’t know about you, but I certainly can understand (and see) that many of my residents are stressed out. Whether dealing with personal loss, medical issues, or other anxiety, our residents can benefit from some encouraged stress relief. Set up an easy, yet very beneficial, activity for your staff or caregivers to help residents beat stress each week. Hand massages, guided meditation/prayer, journaling, or other relaxing activities are best accompanied by our programming on Serenity.

That’s a Laugh…

“Knock knock. (who’s there?) April. (April who?) April is National Humor Month!” Ok, while that might not be the best knock knock joke out there, it got the point across. This year, April is kind of boring – Easter hits at the end of March in 2016 and May kicks off warmer weather and summer vibes. April is the speed bump that we need to get through without a lot of extra holiday inspiration.

Enter humor.

I can’t think of a more fun (or funnier) way to celebrate the month of April than with some programs and events that all celebrate the lighter side of life. This month, plan plenty of ways to laugh with your residents, staff, family members and even referral sources. Have a staff knock knock joke competition or have shifts engage in a friendly prank war. Ask family members to bring in photos for an Awkward Family Photo Contest – it’s all in good fun, and you can have a nice prize for the family that wins.

When it comes to residents, try having a comedy movie night a few times this month, along with a screening of comedy favorites such as I Love Lucy or MASH. Invite a comedian to come to perform for your residents, and give it a comedy club feel with table cloths and appetizers. Start your morning exercise group with a joke, and invite residents to share their favorite jokes throughout the month. Invite any visiting pets to dress up in silly costumes too – because who doesn’t love a dog dressed up as Harry Potter? Plan an outing to a local joke shop to take the funny on the road, or attend a laughter yoga session at a nearby community.

Companion Radio is ready to jump in on all the fun. Don’t forget to get the Comedy program on your community activity calendar. Have fun laughing it up with your community this month!

Spring Fever

March is supposed to be a precursor of warmer temperatures, reminding all of us who have spent the past three months in boots and sweaters that things will eventually thaw out. While your part of the country may still be under feet of snow (hello, Midwest), spring is a promise that the sun will indeed come out tomorrow.

Your residents have been cooped up indoors for the past quarter, and your activity staff might be getting tired of leading indoor activities. Every March, I know that I find myself dealing with a major case of spring fever. Residents are grumbling more and staff members are less creative than usual. Everyone needs a break from the cold and snow.

March is a great time to incorporate plenty of spring activities. Start terrariums and plant seeds that you will grow indoors before transplanting them to your raised garden beds in a few months. Work with your dining department to start incorporating fresh and healthy tastes of spring – try green smoothies and lots of produce. Go visit a local farm when the spring lambs have just been born. Call a local florist to come in and lead a tulip arranging class. Dye Easter eggs. Decorate Easter bonnets. Don’t be shy about decorating in lots of pastel colors.

Spring is on its way, friends! Even if March insists on coming in as a lion and going out more like an angry lion, we are in the home stretch. Your flip flops will be out sooner than you think.

March Radio Companion

Here are a few activity ideas you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Serenity
I have noticed that I tend to recommend using Serenity in the evening time with your residents. And while this is a great intervention, I do believe that using Serenity in the mornings can start your residents off on the right foot for the day. Consider educating your caregivers on how to utilize Serenity when they begin waking up residents. Serenity features music in the mornings that offer a relaxing atmosphere for residents who are up and ready, but the dining room is not quite open yet. Put out a few newspapers or magazines in the room where early risers tend to gather and have Serenity playing quietly as well.

Something in the Afternoon – Reminiscence
I absolutely love the brand new Men’s Club music special happening this month revolving around Irish drinking songs. Have a little fun and set up a makeshift pub in your community living room or dining room, featuring either a beer tasting or a (root) beer tasting for your Men’s Club or for any group of residents. Give lots of Irish toasts and encourage glass clinking and swinging. Serve mini reuben sandwiches to sustain your rowdy guests and – for heaven’s sake – include plenty of green derby hats as wearable centerpieces.

Something in the Evening – Potpourri
Easter is on its way, even if your community still has inches of snow outside. Get into the spring spirit with our Spring Has Sprung poetry program this month. Before your guests arrive, place a few bouquets of tulips or fresh flowers around your activity space to remind everyone that spring is indeed on its way. If you are looking for a sweet ending to this program, consider serving Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, because there’s nothing quite like one to put you in the spring state of mind.

Poison Prevention

Poison preventionMarch brings National Poison Prevention month, which may seem like a week that has no place in your community. However, if you pair Poison Prevention month with a good annual spring cleaning, you have an opportunity to be sure that your office, closets, common areas, and community are safe for residents and visitors.

We all know that residents who are living with dementia are at a higher risk to ingest something that is dangerous. Unfortunately, I know this too well. During my first few years of working as an Activity Director in a memory care community, I had a resident drink a hazardous substance during breakfast. A caregiver turned her back for just a moment (isn’t that always the case?), and a resident found her way to the almost empty dish detergent bottle. It was awful and traumatizing and scary and everything that you might think it would be.

Since then, I have been ever vigilant – if not a bit obsessive – for making sure that my communities are extra safe for residents with dementia, with low vision issues, with judgment issues, and with no issues at all.

This month, make it a point to include poison safety into your monthly activity staff meeting. Double check that you have all the MSDS information on every chemical that you have on hand – this includes your markers, craft paints, glue, manicure supplies, etc. Double check your closets, craft room, and common spaces to make sure that there are not unlabeled jars or bottles that don’t correctly represent what is inside.

Work with your maintenance staff and nursing staff to get your department safe. You’ll be glad you did.

Taking Advantage of the Cold

I’ve never been a fan of winter or the cold weather that slams my Chicagoland home in February. However, I do understand the importance of seasons and encourage you to consider taking advantage of the winter season this year at your community by offering meditation classes and trips.

Winter might be cold and dreary, but it can also offer quiet and solace. In truth, it might be the most perfect season for meditation and relaxation; nature beckons us to be still and quiet. Even if you – or your residents – are skeptical about meditation or stillness, try using this February as a time to introduce scheduled quiet time a few times per week on your calendar. You don’t have to label it as Meditation, and you don’t have to feel pressured to make it a guided event.

Instead, simply have a quiet and distraction-free area prepared for those who are interested. Turn on a few battery powered candles and your essential oil diffuser in the space, and tune in to Serenity Station on Companion Radio. Situate your chairs, or position wheelchairs, to face a window, preferably one with a nice view of the winter landscape. To get everyone started, you might consider just giving the group an idea or thought to silently consider during their time in the space. You don’t have to give everyone lofty mantras; instead, offer words like “gratitude”, “peace”, “stillness” or phrases like “I am happy being still” or “My soul is quiet”.

Invite a speaker from a meditation retreat center to come in and speak about the benefits of quietness, or even arrange a trip to a quiet or holy space where residents can simply sit in the stillness offered there. While you might not get a lot of residents at first, if you keep the quiet time in your event calendar consistent, you will find that it greatly benefits residents who do choose to attend.

This winter, welcome the cold and the stillness of the season.

February Radio Companion

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
Grab residents right before lunch to enjoy some literature that features African American authors all month long. No matter how diverse your specific community is, February gives you a wonderful chance to highlight African American culture as you celebrate Black History Month. This month, our Books for Listeners program will feature authors Langston Hughes and Alice Childress. Don’t miss it!

Something in the Afternoon – Serenity
When is the last time that you worked with your pain management clinical team at your community? This month, take a moment to review care plans and interventions for residents who are having pain management issues; you might be able to assist in their pain management by simply giving them the gift of our relaxing Serenity station. Music has properties shown to decrease pain or the agitation and restlessness that comes with increased pain. Try working with a few residents one at a time or in a small group setting in the afternoon, right before they lie down, to see if you are able to encourage relaxation and even sleepiness in spite of their pain.

Something in the Evening – Potpourri
While we usually feature resident activities utilizing Companion Radio, we wanted to take a moment to remind you of the staff opportunities included with your Companion Radio service. In this case, work with your Director of Nursing to remind him/her of the full inservice this month all about universal precautions and bloodborne pathogens that the overnight shift can tune in to. This is a great opportunity to reach the staff that might not always be able to attend daytime training classes; the quality of the content is excellent and it helps your community to meet 100% compliance on training topics that are required by state and federal regulations. Check it out!

Take the Leap

This February, you can choose to celebrate an extra special day that only comes every four years. It’s Leap Day!leap year

Beyond finding out if you have any Leap Year babies – one of my most favorite things to do because they are technically only about 20 years old  – you can make Leap Day fun for your residents and staff.

What are you going to do with your extra day? You can honor our additional day with a “dessert first” dinner by working with your dining department to kick off the evening meal with a fancy dessert. After all, this day only comes every 4 years! If the dessert-first idea doesn’t fly, try working with dining to see if you can plan mixed up menus like breakfast for dinner or a family style lunch with plates of appetizers.

You can also take Leap Day literally and focus on the best leapers around – frogs. Before Leap Day arrives, contact a local forest preserve or nature center to see if your community can raise tadpoles or even have some leapfrogs visit. Invite grandkids or a local preschool into your community for green punch, frog shaped cookies, and a leapfrog contest. Residents will love watching kids participate in this time honored favorite pastime.

Feature a special trip on Leap Day, or make it a day of activities that are resident favorites. However you choose to celebrate, don’t let Leap Day disappear for another four years without giving it the recognition it deserves. Remember to get Companion Radio in on the action, taking care to play a few extra games or listen to a few extra favorite programs from this month.  Happy Leap Day!

Play the Pain Away

Pain management is a major issue in the field of senior care. Not only are most seniors that we serve underdiagnosed with pain, even fewer are getting the pain management interventions that they need. Residents with decreased communication, increased confusion, or other aging issues can find it difficult to express their pain or locate it when asked by a healthcare professional. One thing is certain: more of our residents are in pain than we probably think. But how can the activity department support pain management? We aren’t allowed to break into the narcotics box and start flinging pain meds around, so what can we do? We can provide music.

While most of us are not certified music therapists (and we think that you should have a relationship with a local music therapist, by the way), we can use music as an intervention for residents who are in pain. Music is a form of sensory stimulation, which provokes feelings of familiarity, security, and safety. Who doesn’t want to feel safe and secure when they are in pain?

Soft and soothing music, like music you might hear on Companion Radio’s Serenity station, are great for reducing pain and symptoms of pain like shallow breathing or anxious behaviors. For other residents, familiar music, like what you might hear on Golden Age Entertainment, can help them momentarily forget about the pain and escape into reminiscence. And, other residents can use Potpourri programs like Stretching, Low-Impact Exercise or other movement to prevent pain by increasing range of motion and endurance.

You can use your Companion Radio programs as an intervention on pain management care plans, and you can educate staff about how music can be a non-medical way to make residents more comfortable when they are having pain. I love how easily Companion Radio can become a pain management tool for you and your entire community.


Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Golden Age Entertainment
January 28 is National Kazoo Day. Take this silly day as a bright start to your day by passing out kazoos to residents and humming along to classics during the 50s & 60s Jukebox program. Get your staff involved and don’t be shy! I’m guaranteeing that you, your residents, and your staff will be laughing by the middle of the first song and that everyone will have a better day no matter how much snow might be outside your window.

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri
If you are like me, you might find your January afternoons dragging along. It’s cold, the holidays are packed up; it can seem freezing and downright boring. But, you may not have the energy to throw together amazing January afternoon events either. After all, you did just pull through the holidays in one piece. One of the best parts of Companion Radio is the afternoon programming on Potpourri. You and your residents can get a mix of games, trivia, and singalongs – all of which are usually popular with your afternoon crowd. Turn on Companion Radio, serve some warm cider and consider yourself awesome for providing intellectual content to your residents during the dreary winter afternoons.

Something in the Evening – Serenity
The second week in January is designated as Letter Writing Week, maybe because the weather usually lends well to cozying up and spending lots of time inside. Dust off your pencils and pens and reinvigorate the lost art of letter writing. Work hard to go beyond letter writing sessions (complete with music from Serenity). Consider bringing in a hand letterer or someone to teach simple calligraphy lessons or even reading love letters of famous poets or celebrities. These are all great activities to do right before or after dinner, when the sky is dark.

Sounds and Soup

January might feel like a month-long holiday hangover for you and your residents. While we think it is great to nurture that hibernation instinct and focus on quality programs without a lot of the muss and fuss, you might also consider planning a family event this month as well. A Soup Supper event can be easy to plan, and you can even turn it into a fundraiser for your department.

Plan your event on a weekday evening, when no one wants to cook anyway. Work with your dining department to plan two or three different kinds of soup to serve and stock tables with baskets full of crusty bread. Throughout the entire month leading up to your event, you can work with residents and staff in painting ceramic soup bowls for guests to purchase and fill up for dinner. Or, put out your bowls for a silent auction and serve dinner in Styrofoam bowls instead. Serve something simple for dessert, like brownies or warm pie a la mode.  Have the dining department package up soup servings for 4 that guests can purchase on the way home after the event. If you work with your marketing department, you can even turn the soup and bread to-go portion of the event into a marketing opportunity to get referral sources into the community.

Don’t forget to include Companion Radio in your celebration. You can turn on Serenity for a low-key atmosphere, or plan a group activity based on an already scheduled program that family and residents can attend together either before or after dinner.

A warm and cozy soup dinner is just what the doctor ordered for everyone’s holiday hangover. This event is sure to please, and you can add as much as you would like to it to better suit your community and department needs. Have fun!

December Radio Companion

Getting Out and About

December can be a great month to get residents out and about in the greater community. In fact, you might have better luck with getting residents who otherwise decline to participate by planning fun holiday trips. If you have a close relationship with your therapy department, get them involved in choosing a few extra trips for your calendar this month, inviting them to go along and co-treat your Medicare residents. Here are a few ideas for you to consider. Bundle up those residents, pack a thermos of hot chocolate, and get out on the bus!
  • Christmas Tree Farm
  • Christmas Light Night Drive
  • Local Botanical Garden
  • Sledding Hill (to watch the kids)
  • Try out snowshoeing
  • Caroling at other local communities
  • Christmas Plays or Musicals
  • Church Cantatas
  • Holiday Exhibits at Museums
  • The Nutcracker
  • Visiting Santa
  • Christmas Cookie Class at a Bakery
  • Planting Poinsettias at a Florist
  • Holiday Wine Tasting
  • Christmas Shopping
  • Taking Christmas Cards (and goodies) to the Post Office for the Workers
  • Bringing Poinsettias to First Responders

December Activities

Here are a few activity ideas you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident’s ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Golden Age Entertainment
I love when you can surprise residents and turn an otherwise ordinary activity into something a little extra special, or silly. Try it this month with your exercise class. Spice up your morning Stretching class by adding in festive props. Try red and green streamers, holiday wreaths, or jingle bells during your Companion Radio guided class for a little extra Christmas cheer. Residents may be weary at first, but soon you will all be laughing and stretching. Serve eggnog after your class – after all, you just burned a few calories and deserve a treat.

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri
Many of us have a designated time to work with “lower functioning” residents. This month, consider using the Serenity station as a part of your multisensory experience with these residents. Whether you are working in small groups or 1:1, listen to our relaxing music while you do your usual multi-sensory work (sensory boxes, manicures and hand massages, etc.). You’ll find that our music fits in nicely and eliminates the need for you to search out the perfect CD for your groups.

Something in the Evening – Potpourri
Christmas Eve is a tricky evening to program for. Most staff want to be home with their own families, while some residents want to celebrate and others do not. Thank goodness Companion Radio has you covered on Christmas Eve during the 1950s Music Hour program. Tune in for A Christmas Carol – this is easy enough that even if you find your community short staffed with nursing assistants, you can surely find one who can gather some residents and tune into Companion Radio. This is a festive event that doesn’t require a lot of extra preparation or stress, and your residents will love it.

Realistic Gifts for a Busy Month

Realistic Gift Giving Ideas

It’s December y’all, and if you have found time to put down that candy cane and hot cocoa, take off the Santa hat, and actually sit down for long enough to read this, you’re already winning in my book. I know that you are busy this month, spreading joy and cheer to residents around you. Sometimes you can forget to schedule in enough time to plan your gifts to other staff members who help you out throughout the year.
I’m keeping this simple, and giving you realistic ideas of things to do or buy for your community on behalf of the activities department. These gift ideas are small, but can go a long way for relationships at your community. Ho, ho, ho!
  • Stock the fridge. With families bringing in plenty of chocolate and other holiday treats, the staff is thirsty. You know you’re at the grocery store anyway this month, buying eggnog and cookies for your next caroling event. While you are pushing the cart, grab a few extra cases of soda and water. Once you get back to the community, stock the fridges in the staff lounges, adding a sign that the drinks are a sign of thanks from the activities department. You’ll be a favorite in no time.
  • Hide surprises. I love hiding surprises for staff to find, and the month of December is a great time to try it out. Grab a few small denomination gift cards for local coffee shops, and tuck them into charts, books from the library or next to your Companion Radio. Add a little holiday card letting the finder know that their next coffee is on your department.
  • Order pizza. The overnight shift is often one of the least appreciated, simply because everyone else is home sleeping while they are working. Plan ahead of time and order a few pizzas to be delivered to the community late one night, courtesy of the activities department.
  • Silly pens. Everyone is carrying around ink pens, so a new one is always appreciated. Take time to order silly ink pens and walk them around to staff members over the course of the week. Tie on a note of appreciation and watch how something this small can make eyes light up.
This holiday, take time to plan ahead for gifts that your fellow staff members will appreciate and love. What gift ideas can you come up with to show your thanks for a successful year?

November Radio Companion

Settle In with a Good Book

The late fall brings cloudy skies and cooler temperatures, which mean that everyone in your community is automatically ready to cozy up and hibernate a bit. This month can be the perfect time to offer a few extra reading opportunities; be sure that you have a good relationship with your library so that they can help you out with ideas and supplies.

If you haven’t already, use Companion Radio for literature related activities.  These programs include Books for Listeners, Poetry, The Book Show and Story Tree. These are entertaining and easy for you to throw together. But beyond Companion Radio, consider inviting your local librarian in to host a Book Club or a book recommendations event. She can sign up residents for library cards and you can be sure that your bus offers service to the library on a regular basis. Use this month to stock up your own community’s library as well; send out a letter to family and friends asking for donations of magazine subscriptions or lightly used books. Contact your local eye doctors or resource centers to be sure that you have a supply of magnifiers and other adaptive equipment, including audio books, so that avid readers aren’t deterred by their vision. To celebrate, have a library update party and invite residents to check out the new offerings right in their own home.

Books can also be a great way to have a successful intergenerational activity. Invite a preschool class in for a cookies and milk story time, or ask a high school class if they would like to join you for a classic book discussion. Invite grandchildren in for an evening event complete with reading a chapter of Harry Potter, watching the movie, and eating treats from the book like Chocolate Frogs.

How will you cozy up and encourage reading at your community this month?

November Activities

Here are a few activity ideas you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident’s ability.  Have fun!RC - E - November 2015 front page

Something in the Morning – Golden Age Entertainment
Start the morning right with a bit of easy exercise and stretching with residents with our Easy and Relaxing music as the soundtrack for your session. Get your rehabilitative nursing staff involved and work together on improving resident range of motion, flexibility, and endurance. Easy exercise or stretching in the morning can be a great way for residents to wake up, feel energized, and get the day started on the right foot – all before breakfast! After your session, encourage residents to sit together and enjoy their meal in the dining room.

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri
The start of the holiday season can sometimes be the start of sadness or depression for our residents. Make a conscious effort this month to add a few laughs with our Comedy half hour. Residents will enjoy favorites like Fibber McGee and can share jokes or funny stories with one another after the show ends. Serve spiced apple cider for a little extra warm up.

Something in the Evening – Potpourri
A great way to celebrate Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is to educate staff members about the disease and interventions that work. Companion Radio has a great in-service this month all about managing behaviors that sometimes come with memory issues. Work with your Administrator and Director of Nursing to be sure that every staff member has the chance to listen in to the training. After the training, take a few moments to remind staff where activity intervention kits are kept at the community. Have a few kits or activities sitting out for staff to look at and try.

This October, honor and recognize mental health throughout your community. Everyone will be glad that you took this small step to make it an annual focus.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane!

biplane_airplane_oldtimer_220069November is National Aviation Month, and while I typically pass by this notation on my calendar, I’ve decided that this is the year of the airplane. It might be because my kindergarten son is obsessed with watching the planes fly patterns over our nearby airport, or it might be because I can use the aviation theme throughout my monthly programming to add a little extra pizazz to a month that can sometimes get overwhelmed with pumpkin pie and cornucopias.

I wonder if you might want to celebrate National Aviation Month at your community as well. Besides trivia about Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh and the Wright Brothers, you can celebrate aviation with an outing to your local airport or a paper airplane intergenerational activity. Your residents can make cards for servicemen in the Air Force, or you can kick back with some popcorn and movies like The Aviator or Amelia.

Tune into Companion Radio to enjoy music from the bandstand for a USO themed social, or click on the Serenity Station as your memory care residents sift through a travel themed rummage suitcase (include a passport, maps, etc.). Or, add some Companion Radio music as a background for a model airplane event.

Are you in to celebrating all things aviation this month? I’m willing to bet that it will ‘take off’ at your community!

October Radio Companion

Stop Shying Away from the Sad

As Activity Professionals, we are pretty good at putting on a happy face and spreading some joy. It’s our job to connect with residents and add a bit of silliness, celebration or pride in their days. However, I wonder if sometimes our profession tends to shy away from the hard or deep conversations. Or maybe, I know that we are getting into the deep and hard conversations because of our unique connections to our residents, but I wonder if we could then take that interaction and explore it further.

With World Mental Health Day arriving on October 10, I would love to challenge you to work with your social work and clinical team to celebrate through lectures and screenings throughout your community. Mental health is especially important to our residents considering that depression and anxiety are among the top mental health diagnoses for adults over the age of 65. However, as prevalent as mental health issues are to our residents, our communities don’t always address it more than just making referrals to gero-psychiatrists or counselors.

This October, could you start a change at your community? Could you start the process of breaking down the stigmas and shame that are attached to mental health among your residents? Consider hosting educational opportunities throughout the month that are available for residents, family members, the greater community, and staff. Encourage your clinical team to use October as a month for depression and anxiety screenings. Work with social services to review what, if any, support groups are available for your residents and families. If you find a need that your community hasn’t met, be sure that you are able to refer residents appropriately and confidently. Consider grief support or loss support groups, cancer (or other diagnosis-specific) peer groups or alcohol/drug addiction support groups.

Finally, work with your HR department to offer staff-oriented trainings and opportunities. Be sure that all staff are trained on topics like depression, anxiety and suicide. All staff members should know what kind of information from a resident should be passed along to the clinical team. Further, October is a great time for HR to annually review what mental health services are available to staff members.

This October, honor and recognize mental health throughout your community. Everyone will be glad that you took this small step to make it an annual focus.

October Activities

Here are a few activity ideas you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident’s ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Serenity
October is Computer Learning Month, which can be the perfect time to schedule some extra technology lessons for your residents and staff. Consider hosting an email setup class or a Facebook class for higher level residents who are interested. You can also use this month to try out new apps on your department iPad or other technology. Give residents a chance to try out new gadgets from iPads to computers, handheld solitaire games to Pinterest. Have times set up where residents can come and try out new technology on their own, when you or your staff will be in the room and available for assistance, in the morning. Set a relaxing mood by turning on Serenity to break the silence.

Something in the Afternoon – Golden Age Entertainment
We all know that Sweetest Day is a bit of a Hallmark holiday, but I don’t think that’s a reason why you and your residents shouldn’t celebrate it. However, instead of heading in the direction of love, gear your Sweetest Day celebration towards sweet treats. Host a Sweetest Day Soda Shop Mixer full of signature drinks reminiscent of the 1950s. Root beer floats and cherry colas are a great start. Up the ante with some fall treats or vintage inspired candies to snack on as well. Pull out some leftover decorations from your last Sock Hop (including your poodle skirt – you know you have one in that storage closet!), and turn on Companion Radio‘s Bandstand program to save you money on an entertainer. Talk about favorite sweet treats as you enjoy your afternoon event.

Something in the Evening –  Potpourri
It’s Halloween, y’all, so you have to share a few spooky opportunities with residents who are interested. We’ve made it a bit easier for you to entertain residents who like to stay up later than business hours. Catch our 1950s Music Hour and turn your living room into a Late Night Snack and Scare. We will be running War of the Worlds, narrated by Orson Wells during this time slot and your residents will love reminiscing about and reliving it. Serve up some fall treats and throw out plenty of cozy blankets. Enjoy!

Hollywood Halloween

October brings with it some community staples – pumpkin decorating contests, fun size candy bar taste tests and Halloween parties. This year, if you are looking for another idea to celebrate Halloween that isn’t the same ‘ole, same ‘ole, consider a Hollywood Halloween event that is themed around some of the greatest scary flicks of the 1950s. Host this party in the evening, perhaps after a themed dinner full of spooky favorites like mummy-dogs and spider bagel bites. Encourage residents to dress up like their favorite old Hollywood star or snuggle in with their favorite pajamas. Have a red carpet rolled out that residents can walk (and work) on their way into your living room or activity room. Don’t forget to take lots of paparazzi pics of your guests on the way in.

Offer feather boas or masquerade masks as residents take their seat. Serve popcorn or roasted pumpkin seeds and lemonade with oranges to add a bit of fall color. Finally, once everyone is seated, settle in for a showing of big feature films of the times like Godzilla, It Came From Beneath the Sea or The Creature from the Black Lagoon. If you have a double feature, be sure to include fun games during intermission like a scared face contest or scary movie trivia.

This Hollywood Halloween event can end up being a well-loved favorite at your community. Have a SPOOKtacular time!


September Radio Companion

Joining Forces

If you work in a community that has rehabilitation and therapy services for your residents, you may have a dicey relationship with the Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Speech Therapists. It can get frustrating when short-term stay residents are always too tired from therapy to attend your events or even get pulled out of your events by therapists to make a PT/OT/ST session. Often times, even if you have a good relationship with your therapists, it can be frustrating for your assistants to understand how billing works. It can make your department feel less important than others, and we all know that recreation services are vital to quality of life – not to mention customer service – for our residents.

In honor of Rehabilitation Services week (the third full week in September), consider starting your relationships fresh and find ways to join forces to best serve your residents. Work with the Director of Therapy Services well in advance to plan out daily activities for your staff and resident calendar and get the relationship moving in the right direction. Already have a great relationship with your therapy department? Awesome – celebrate it this week as well.

For staff events, consider hosting a job shadow program where an activity assistant shadows a therapist for a few hours and then that therapist shadows your activity assistant. This will need some schedule coordination, but it can be invaluable in showing both departments how much you really have in common. You can also host lunch for the two departments to encourage some mingling; pair the lunch with a group in-service to further discuss moving your relationship forward.

For resident events, consider hosting exercise classes that are co-led by both activity and therapy staff. (Use Companion Radio for some audio help.) Another great idea is to have a few outing opportunities for residents throughout the week that are co-led by activities and therapy. Letting therapists attend outings with their patients allows residents to practice their new skills and strength in the real world.

How will you pair with Therapy Services this month?

September Activities

Radio Companion - September 2015 - EasternHere are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
September is Better Breakfast Month, which sounds like the perfect way to join with dining services and host a morning event. Work with your dining services team to find out what they would like to do for the residents – oatmeal bar complete with toppings like blueberries and chia seeds, a power smoothie station for made to order creations, or a lecture on the benefits of eating a good breakfast – and then generate some buzz by adding the event to your newsletter. A few days before, put cute bedside reminders on the pillows of your residents. Just print them out and ask housekeeping to add one to the pillow or nightstand of each room they attend to that day. Let Companion Radio provide some extra entertainment with our morning news and health/wellness programming.

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri
There have been plenty of studies done that prove that the more we all use our brains, the less our chances of having memory issues when we are older. While you likely have cognitive programming throughout your monthly calendar of events, it can be a drag to consistently find new and entertaining intellectual games. This month, spend each afternoon with Companion Radio’s Potpourri Station. We’ve already done the work and prepared trivia games for your residents. Tune in, gather your residents, and have some fun while you give your brain a work out.

Something in the Evening – Golden Age Entertainment
September is harvest season, which means that if you have farmers in your community, they are used to celebrating this month! Throw your community a barn dance event, complete with red and white checked tablecloths, down home favorites like fried chicken and potato salad, and lots of denim. Invite families or professional partners to attend this event as well, and click on Companion Radio’s Country Showcase to give some boot scootin’ music to your event. Don’t forget to serve lemonade and sweet tea, along with some homemade apple cobbler, for your guests as well.

Keeping Summer Alive

August doesn’t have to be your last month of celebrating all things summer. In fact, even here in the Chicago-land area, September temperatures are still sunny and mild; fall, in all of its colored leaves and apple cider glory, are still weeks away. But so often we are ready to toss the summer décor back into the storage room and get out scarecrows, hay bales, and bushel baskets. This year, consider relishing in summer activities for one more month.

With September temperatures a bit less humid than in July or August, this might be the ideal month to plan most of your outside time with residents. Host extra happy hours in the patio or more morning coffees in the garden. Celebrate back-to-school by hosting a Popsicle party with a local Girl Scout troop, or make homemade lemonade with a local daycare center as an inter-generational activity.

September is also a month of harvest, and gardens are still producing plenty of vegetables and flowers. Your walking club can clip flowers to tuck in vases throughout the community, or your resident Food Council can work with the dining department to feature recipes with ingredients that are harvested out of your community garden.

You still have a whole month of beach balls, ice cream, and patio time – enjoy it! Your residents will love the extra celebration too.

August Radio Companion

Emergency, Emergency

How often does your community focus on emergency preparedness? No, I don’t mean how often staff members need to attend in-services about what to do in case of a tornado, an elopement, or a fire. Instead, how often does your entire community – staff, residents, visitors, and families – focus on emergency preparedness? If you can’t recall a time that everyone was educated, and practiced, together, it might be a good time to plan a week’s worth of activities for your community that focus around emergencies.

Work closely with your community partners, like the police department and fire department, to provide educational lectures for anyone to attend. Consider topics like preventing senior fraud, or what to include in your wallet in case of emergency. Give tours of a fire truck and ambulance, and run fire and severe weather drills throughout the week. Make your trivia groups focused around emergency preparedness. Give family presentations about what to do if there is an emergency when they have their loved one at home, and how to set up their home for safety during visits. End your week by hosting a social for first responders, complete with Companion Radio music to set the mood.

You might find that Emergency Week is a hit and becomes a yearly tradition at your community. It is a great way to highlight community services, get to know your first responders, and educate staff and residents at the same time.

August Activities

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning –Golden Age Entertainment Station
August is hot, y’all. Here in Illinois, it never failed that I would have at least four residents who still insisted on wearing long sleeves and a cardigan when we would sit out in the garden. My overall goal for my department throughout August was to push fluids. I wasn’t going to let any resident get dehydrated on my watch. This month, consider a morning Juice Bar social, full of plenty of liquids to sample. Stock your bar with juices (try orange, pineapple, pomegranate, grape, and cranberry) and mixers like seltzer water to add a little fizz. Don’t forget festive cups (this is a great time to pull out those extra cups left over from other summer socials) and straws. Click on you Companion Radio to enjoy favorite music to top off your fun atmosphere. Cheers!

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri Station
It’s the dog days of summer and I don’t know about you, but taking some time to sit inside the air conditioning sounds fabulous to me. Beat the heat with Dog Days Trivia at 2pm. Consider pairing the trivia session with a dog visit, serving puppy chow (Chex mix with melted peanut butter and chocolate chips, drenched in powdered sugar) for the humans and Milkbone biscuits for your canine visitors. Don’t forget plenty of water – in bowls for the dogs, and in glasses with lemon wedges for the humans.

Something in the Evening – Serenity Station
August 15 is Relaxation Day, so why not give your residents the chance to kick back a bit during an evening spa program this month. Get your caregivers involved and set up stations in the living room area of your community. Have residents sign up for a time slot (to reduce long lines and crowding) for a pedicure, manicure, hand massage, and facial treatment. Serve spa water, infused with cucumber, citrus wedges, or berries, and play relaxing music from the Serenity Station. For a party favor, send residents away with lavender scented eye masks.

Feelin’ Thrifty

I’m a big fan of unusual outings. Sure, I love the Christmas light drives and trips to the local diner. I love taking residents to baseball games and fishing and to the grocery store. But, I really like to keep them guessing by planning outings that no one – and I mean no one – would have thought of. My Mystery Drives are somewhat legendary at places that I have worked. Residents have been everywhere from drive-ins to construction sites, golf courses to homeless shelters, with me behind the wheel.

This August, I encourage you to consider celebrating National Thriftshop Day (a made up holiday, surely, celebrated on August 17) with an outing that will keep your residents talking for weeks. Split residents into teams, each with a staff member, and head out on a Thrift Store Scavenger Hunt for the ages.

Give residents a list of bizarre things to find (a garden gnome, a cast iron skillet, hot pink heels, a book written before 1950, etc.), make sure someone has a camera phone on them, and send them out to the local thrift shop. After a set time, blow your whistle (of course you brought a whistle!) and see which team found the most items on the list. Reward the winning team by purchasing the item of their choice from the list of items found and drive through to grab ice cream on your way home.

It’s a simple outing to put together, and it is one that will bring unexpected giggles and stories. Advertise it as a Thrift Shop Scavenger Hunt or as a Mystery Trip to keep residents guessing. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate a made up holiday!

July Radio Companion

Bring a Little Boom, Bang, Ooooh and Ahhhh

It just wouldn’t be July without fireworks, right? However, it can be nearly impossible to partake in the firework tradition when you live in a senior community. This year, maybe you can find fun and different ways to bring the boom to your community.

Before your risk management team starts to freak out, I’m not suggesting that you bring in a full fireworks display to your community courtyard. However, with a little bit of creativity, you can give your residents the chance to light up during the Fourth of July. Here are a few ideas to get your creative fireworks going:

Sparklers and Spritzers
You can add a little pizazz to a before or after dinner on your courtyard with just a little bit of advanced planning. Skip food and only serve fancy drinks for this event, pouring drinks into plastic champagne or martini glasses. Simply mixing juice with sparkling water or Sprite can turn an otherwise ordinary drink into something extra special. Add a few blueberries or strawberries to the glass and you now have an America themed spritzer. To add the sparkle, grab boxes of sparklers to pass out to your (able) residents and staff members. You’ll be surprised how much reminiscing can start by just introducing sparklers; I have even had a few residents be unexpectedly moved to tears when sparklers were brought out because of good memories of when their children were young. Tune into Companion Radio during the event as well, featuring American patriotic tunes.

Get on the bus
Do you take your residents on a fireworks outing in your town? If you don’t, this year, you might want to consider it. Call ahead to your township office to see if there is a place that you could park your bus that is safe and not crowded. You can bring lawn chairs and bug spray for your residents, or just watch the show from inside the bus. Serve red, white and blue popsicles and enjoy the show.

Get Crafty
Bring the fireworks indoors by making some easy crafts. I’m loving the fork firework project and the fun snack ideas that I found on this blog.

Stream It
You can stream live fireworks displays everywhere from Sydney to Dubai. If you feel like adding a bit of fireworks to your resident calendar, watch them on television or on your iPad. Serve festive red, white and blue fruit kabobs and lemonade while watching different displays all day long.

How will you incorporate good, old fashioned fireworks into your resident programming calendar this year?

July Activities

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
July is National Anti-Boredom Month, and as an Activity Professional, I can’t think of a better month to celebrate! July’s hot and sticky temperatures can often leave our residents staying inside and out of the elements. Things inside can get just as boring as when winter weather keeps us closed up too. Beat the heat – and the boredom – by utilizing the Books for Listeners program. It is a perfect intellectual wellness activity, and you can corral all of the early birds who arrive to wait in the dining room hallway an hour before it even opens. Take that, boredom!

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri
July 1 is International Joke Day, and while you never need a reason to inject a little extra humor into your residents day, take advantage of this day to really bring on the laughs. Host a Comedy Club afternoon social, giving prizes to residents who tell the best joke. Tune in to the Comedy program on Companion Radio and serve seltzer water mixed with lemonade and some fresh fruit kabobs for a refreshing afternoon treat.

Something in the Evening – Golden Age Entertainment
July is National Ice Cream Month. This is a holiday that I can really get behind, amen? Once the sun retreats for the day, temperatures on your garden patio or other outdoor space can dip back down to tolerable. Consider hosting an evening ice cream celebration for residents, family and staff. You don’t have to make it fancy with lots of exotic toppings. Keep it easy peasy by featuring prepackaged ice cream treats. Even better, many ice cream trucks will come to your location at a designated time and bill you for the total bill. Anytime I have brought in an ice cream truck, I have been declared a hero. Don’t miss out on your chance for smiles and applause – ice cream trucks win every time.

Honoring Our Veterans

Through our emails and newsletters, I’ve covered different ideas on how to remember, support and encourage Veterans. Not only is it important work to thank our Veterans, it also opens up good conversations and gives Veterans and their families the chance to get the gratitude they deserve. This July, consider celebrating Veterans throughout your greater community all month long.

Plan a trip to a cemetery that has a memorial or section dedicated for Veterans. Bring along small American flags or flower arrangements for residents to place on the graves of those who have served. Admittedly, I planned an outing like this under much protest, as I didn’t think that it would be fun for my residents to go to a cemetery to honor people that they didn’t know. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My outing list filled up within just a few hours of announcing the activity, and I ended up making 3 trips to include everyone who was interested.

You can also invite a local ROTC group into your community to show off their marching skills or to present the colors at a ceremony around your community’s flag pole. Take time to have residents shake their hands and serve refreshments so that they can all visit with one another.

Have a representative from Honor Flight come to your community; find a local hub nearest to you and make a connection with that office. Not only can some of your residents sign up to go, but you can also find out how to lead a fundraiser or write cards for the Veterans who attend the flights to Washington, D.C.

Invite family members, residents, and staff to bring in photos of themselves or their family who have served. Set up a Hall of Honor at your community with framed photos displayed in a prominent spot. Add a crisp, white tablecloth and a few vases of single red roses or other flowers. You can also leave out a guest book for people to write notes of thanks.

July is also the perfect time to squeeze in moments of recognition for Veterans during family BBQ nights or even a weekday lunch in the dining room. Celebrate America, and all those who have served us so well, all month long.

High Five Your CNAs

June gives your whole community another reason to celebrate your CNA staff; National Nursing Assistants Week kicks off on June 11 and runs through the 18th. Not only can you facilitate activities that give family members and residents the chance to show their appreciation for your hardworking CNAs, you can also use this week as a chance to recognize the CNAs who go above and beyond to support your activity programming. Here are a few ideas to get your creativity going.

High Five
Trace your hand on colorful paper and cut it out. Write the words “High Five!” on the palm of the paper hands and pass these out to CNAs who bring residents to programs, participate in programs, or help out during an activity during the week. Have an auction at the end of the week with fun prizes that CNAs can bid on with their High Fives.

Make It Special
Host an Activities Loves Our CNAs social. Serve cupcakes and punch, and pass out fun awards to caregivers that you, your staff, and the residents have worked on. Include awards for the “Most Fun CNA to Have on an Outing”, “Best Dancer”, “Best Singer”, “Best Trivia Reader”, etc. Try to recognize as many of the CNA staff as you can. Don’t forget to click on Companion Radio to set the festive atmosphere.

Special Snacks
Sponsor snacks in the break room one day of the week and encourage other departments to sponsor the remaining days. Your department doesn’t have to spend tons of money to make your caregiver staff feel special. Package up mini bags of popcorn with notes tied on that say “Thanks for making our activities POP”, or Starburst packs with a sticker that says “You are a BURST of life at our activities”. Get residents involved in attaching the tags or stickers, and set up a nice display in the nursing break room.

Extra Education
Consider hosting a training for CNAs that focuses on how and when to use Companion Radio. Try making the training an interactive one. For example, plan the training during a trivia or game program on Companion Radio. Bring small prizes for everyone who attends and participates.

How will you and your community make your CNAs feel extra special this year?

June Radio Companion

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
Did you know that June 6 is National Gardening Exercise Day? Well, now you do! We think that this is a perfect time to spice up your Companion Radio‘s Stretching program. Before the 6th, head out to the craft store and pick up big and bright artificial flowers. Pass out one or two to each participant and incorporate the blooms into your stretching program. We venture to guess that you will even get a few more participants simply out of curiosity.

Something in the Afternoon – Serenity
You don’t have to be from the south to enjoy iced tea. Try planning an iced tea social (Iced Tea Day is June 10, but we think you can celebrate this summer drink anytime) in the afternoon for your residents. In the morning, gather a few residents to help you make sun tea. Simply fill a large, clear, glass container with water and stick tea bags in. Set the container outside in a sunny spot and as the warm sun heats the water, the tea will brew. Add some ice and pour glasses right from your container at your afternoon social. Be sure you have plenty of shady spots available for your participants and reminisce about the best parts of summer. Tune into Serenity to add a little music to your conversation.

Something in the Evening – Potpourri
It’s a grand old flag and we have the chance to celebrate it on June 14. Celebrate our red, white, and blue with a post-dinner activity featuring Companion Radio‘s Poetry program that is focused on our American flag. Serve clear cups layered with blueberries, strawberries, and whipped cream (or vanilla yogurt) and pink lemonade for a summer and flag themed treat. If possible, bring your festivities outside and enjoy a summer evening outdoors.

Fishing for Benefits

You certainly know by now that I’m a sucker for a good monthly theme. Not only do I think that monthly themes add some extra fun to community programming, I also think that having a unique monthly theme can keep us from doing the same things over and over. No one wants a “same old, same old” activity calendar – not the residents, not the staff, and certainly not a creative Activity Director. Monthly themes help keep us creatively charged and challenged. For June, I think I have found a perfect way to keep things a bit fishy at your community.

June is Aquarium Month, and I think that you should use this opportunity to introduce a few fishy friends to your community living spaces. There have been studies on the benefits of aquariums in health care settings for decades. Not only have aquariums been proven to decrease stress and agitated behaviors in all populations, but having an aquarium can also lead to increased healing and relaxation. Each of these benefits sounds pretty good for your community, right?

Work with your administrator and other directors to see if you can start with one aquarium in your community. If you are looking for a place for your new fishy friends, consider a living area where there are highly stressed residents (maybe your memory care area or your short-term stay Medicare unit). Talk to your local pet shop about how to set up a successful fresh water aquarium; once you have everything decided, take residents on an outing to the pet shop to pick out your first fish.

Besides the calming effect that aquariums have, there are also plenty of benefits to giving residents that have a history of depression something to care for. I’ve had great success from some of my more independent residents with small aquariums containing Beta fish. After careful assessment, and with plenty of support from our activity staff to ensure our fish are cared for, my residents have enjoyed having a Beta fish aquarium in their rooms.

How can you successfully incorporate aquariums into your community? Even if you already have a tank somewhere, are you finding ways to bring residents to it as an intervention for anxiety? Combining quiet time looking at the aquarium with Companion Radio‘s Serenity station might be the perfect care plan intervention for residents who battle with anxiety or nervous behaviors.

Get fishy with your community this month and see what happens!

Get in the Act

While I have almost always celebrated Older Americans Month in the communities where I worked, I have not always loved the theme suggested by the Administration for Community Living. Either the theme is too obtuse for me to draw ideas from, or it doesn’t adequately reflect my community or residents. This year, though, I’m loving the theme. For 2015, Older Americans Month boasts the theme “Get in the Act”, a call to all older folks to get active, get empowered, and get into their community.

You can weave Companion Radio resources into your celebration of Older Americans Month quite easily with the Get in the Act theme. Try out our different exercise groups and have residents vote which program(s) they would like to have included on your activity calendar on a weekly basis. Residents can literally ‘get in the act’ with our Broadway show or Comedy programs. Encourage residents to write their own poems after our Poetry program, and share them over hot drinks in a coffee shop activity. Make sure your residents stay informed on world news with our Senior and World Issues program. And that is just the start of how you can combine Companion Radio with a month long celebration of older adults everywhere.

How will you celebrate Older Americans Month this year? How will you empower your residents to get into the act? No matter how you choose to celebrate at your community, you can rest assured that Companion Radio will be one of your most helpful planning tools.

May Radio Companion

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Serenity
Celebrate May Day this year with your residents and watch how a few surprise flower deliveries can change the attitude of your entire community. On May 1, gather residents to break down flower bouquets that you grabbed from your local store on the way to work. Have residents tie a pretty ribbon on each flower. Don’t forget to set the mood with some relaxing music from your Serenity Station. Then, send residents out in small groups to put flowers on apartment/room doors so that the person who lives there is surprised by a pretty flower. Try sending out your surprise squad during breakfast or lunch so that residents are not in their rooms. If you have enough flowers, don’t forget to hit the staff break room to spread some cheer to them as well.

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri
Get brains working with trivia this month that is focused on all things Mom. With Mother’s Day this month, it can be easy to celebrate mom only on that Sunday. However, we think that a little Mom trivia is a great way to extend the celebration and increase the intellectual exercise. Separate residents into teams and keep score, or toss out small Hershey kisses to anyone who answers correctly.

Something in the Evening – Reminiscence
Memorial Day is one of my favorite days to celebrate with residents. I think it is a great gift to be able to give residents the opportunity to remember those who served our country and lost their lives along the way. You might have many residents who have served in the military and lost friends, or you might have residents who are family or friends with someone who passed away while serving our country. Purchase some flowers for the occasion and light candles, even stating the name of people your residents know who have died while serving our country. Don’t forget to include Companion Radio in your celebration, tuning in for the music special that will highlight music for Memorial Day.

Go Green

This May, among all of your celebrations for Older American Month and National Nursing Home Week (May 10-16), don’t forget to spend plenty of time breathing the fresh air and getting outside. We talked quite a bit last about outdoor activities you can easily plan in our April ideas, but May is the time when the weather evens out a bit more here in the Midwest and throughout the country. May is when I am almost always able to confidently plan my patio cleanups and gardening groups, without the fear of a random Chicagoland snow storm creeping in.

This May, I encourage you to sit down with your residents and maintenance department and find a few easy and realistic ways that your community can be more environmentally friendly. With the influx of Baby Boomers already hitting our senior centers and communities, the desire for communities to be more “green” is increasing. While it can be intimidating trying to figure out how your community can adopt some better environmental practices, you will likely be surprised when you gather your residents and maintenance department together to start the conversation.

You can add recycling bins to resident apartments and the staff break room, or plant a few more trees on your campus. Start a rooftop or patio garden that the dining department can use for fresh ingredients, or make sure all community light bulbs are energy efficient. Start a compost bin or a rainwater conservation system.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised when you gather passionate and creative people of all ages who are ready to make a difference.

Explore the Outdoors with Music

If you’ve been a subscriber to Companion Radio for a year or so and have been reading my articles, you know that I am not a fan of the winter. You will also know that I live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. This is not an ideal place to live when you prefer sundresses to snow pants. As I write this now, I am attempting to entertain my 4 year old son with Legos for the fifth time in as many hours. We are both stir crazy, as his preschool has been closed for the past three days due to some nasty temperatures and conditions. We haven’t left the house in four days and I have been wearing the same sweatshirt for the past week. Just keeping it real – the sweatshirt is warm, the weather is freezing, and we are all dreaming of hiking day trips and swimming pools.

Needless to say, I love that this job at Companion Radio keeps me planning months in advance. Right now, there might be a twenty degree below zero wind chill outside, but here on my computer, I’m thinking spring. The month of April, to be exact. April showers sound one hundred times better than shoveling 5 inches of snow right now, so this spring let’s take advantage of the best thing spring has to offer – time outside!

If you live in the Midwest, your residents are likely stir crazy too. With the new spring season knocking on your community door, use the blooming flowers to usher in a new season of movement with your residents. This spring, I encourage you to start a spring walking club.

Pick one or two days per week to meet, rain or shine. If the weather is pleasant, walk outside on the grounds of your community. Take time to visit, notice the new spring buds. If the weather is less than ideal, spend your time walking indoors. Be sure that residents know that any physical ability level is welcome. Send your more independent and fast walkers ahead, and be sure that you or another staff person walks with the slower crowd to offer encouragement. Don’t forget to include Companion Radio in your club by having a station playing along your indoor route.

I’ve done a spring walking club for most of my career, and it is almost always successful. Some years, it really takes off and we buy pedometers and track our steps. We have also taken our walking club on field trips to walk in local gardens or parks. And other years, the walking club is just a wonderful means of socialization.

Whatever your walking club shakes out to be, I bet that you will be pleasantly surprised at how this easy activity can truly transform your community. That’s what spring is about after all – the transformation and hope for something new.

April Radio Companion

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Serenity
April showers might  bring May flowers, but we all have spring fever by the time April 1 rolls around. Harness the natural tendency to turn outside or to plant a garden by starting your own Morning Garden Club. The Club can meet throughout the upcoming months, well into the fall, planting, tending and harvesting the plants around your community. Your Gardening Club can start in April by starting plants from seeds and continue through spring and summer by watering plants your community already has. Be sure to include any of the relaxing music programs on Serenity while you work. A Gardening Club is great for all abilities and levels of residents, and everyone can do their part to make your community look (and smell) beautiful all year long.

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri
The entire month of April is National Humor Month and I can’t think of anything better to celebrate. There have been many studies on the importance of humor to seniors who live in communities. Not only does laughing increase our endorphins and make us feel good, it can also combat depression and encourage healing. Take time to celebrate with our Comedy program after lunch. Use the program to break the comedic ice and then encourage residents to share their favorite joke with the rest of the group. (Keep it as clean as your residents prefer.)

Something in the Evening – Potpourri
April 5 is Easter Sunday, a day that is likely to be special to many of your residents. While most celebrate Easter for its religious reasons, there is plenty to be celebrated in the idea of new beginnings, starting again and rebirth. Why not tune in to our Poetry program on Potpourri and enjoy artistic words about Easter all month long? You can use this program as an opportunity to not only listen to the poetry, but also to discuss it and even encourage residents to write their own. Serve a spring snack for extra credit.

Get Your Community Strumming Along

There have been plenty of studies showing that new learning can keep dementia and other memory loss at bay. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Further, the studies of the benefits of music on memory loss have been a touchstone of our industry for years. What better way to combine both music and new learning than in April, International Guitar Month?

While we are obviously biased to the strong influence of music and how it affects seniors, even the most unmusical activity professional can infuse guitar into activities throughout this month. Work on getting your interested residents involved in group, or individual, guitar lessons. Start off by calling local music shops and instructors to see if they can recommend students who might be willing to donate their time teaching your residents a song or two. As a bonus, you can invite occupational therapy or speech therapy departments to attend the music classes with you and the residents; guitar lessons are a wonderful way to co-treat residents. If you are hosting group lessons, ask your instructor if s/he can bring in enough guitars for the group. Otherwise, individual and shorter sessions (15 minutes a piece) can be held back-to-back.

If you can’t find a guitar instructor to come in and teach residents a song or two, you can still get residents strumming along to the beat. Pass out small guitars or ukeles to a circle of residents, turn on Companion Radio and encourage residents to strum along to the beat. This is great for fine motor skills, as well as for coordination. Plus, it is just plain fun.

Get strumming!

Spicing Up St. Pat’s

When you are planning for March, you would be remiss not to include at least a few St. Patrick’s Day events. Working in the suburbs of Chicago, I know that I would hear it from my Irish-proud residents if I didn’t pay attention to this all-green holiday. However, even though I’m partly Irish, I will admit that St. Patrick’s Day gets a little old year after year. I am always looking for ways to change it up a bit. What about you? Do you ever get sick of all-green food socials (I mean, I love green goddess dip, but isn’t there something else?) and pulling out your shamrock sunglasses that you wear each year?

For me, St. Patrick’s Day is a good yearly reminder that my creative brain needs more stimulation than just pulling out the same tricks every March 17th. Getting stagnant and doing the same thing over and over is a common trap that activity professionals fall into and I have to make a conscious effort to steer clear of the same old, same old.

This year, when planning for March and your St. Pat’s activities, I encourage you to pull out your March calendars from the past few years. Take a good look and determine if your programming could use something new and different this year. Change doesn’t have to be huge or time intensive, but instead could be a new recipe, a new way to incorporate St. Pat’s into exercise class (have you ever tried an Irish dance inspired chair exercise class? My residents always end up laughing so hard once their feet get going), or even a new service project inspired by St. Patrick himself.

Not relying on the tried and true programs can be a bit scary at first. After all, you already know where those shamrock sunglasses and party decorations are in your storage room. However, you will find that when you are allowed to plan some new things, you will feel newly inspired and creative. Your staff and residents will pick up on your new attitude and you will find that you have just breathed new life into March.

Stuck on coming up with a new idea to try this year? Your Radio Companion is the perfect place to start. Our programmers have a month full of music, games and trivia just waiting for you and your residents. Here’s to a St. Patrick’s Day like no other!

March Radio Companion

Here are a few activity ideas you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
March 2 is the birthday of the famous Dr. Seuss. Personally, I have loved this “holiday” and celebrated it with my residents long before I had a preschooler in my home. Your residents are sure to remember reading Seuss classics to their kiddos or grandchildren and the rhyming and rhythm is almost too good to resist. Tune in to the Books For Listeners program to hear some classics by Dr. Seuss. Work with your dining department to plan a special breakfast (green eggs and ham, of course) that morning before the Companion Radio program.

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri
March 14 is Pi Day (3.14, get it?) and I don’t know about you, but I never needed a reason to have a Pie Social with my residents. So, to have an actual “Pi holiday”, that makes it extra special. Consider having a Pie Bar, complete with different types of pie (already sliced and on plates) to choose from, along with toppings like whipped cream (get your dining services director to make it homemade right during the social) and ice cream. If a Pie Bar doesn’t suit your community, try a pie taste testing social. This is a great way for your dining director to try out some new pies (that their supplier can usually get to them at no cost), including sugar free options. Pass out small portions (a few bites, max) of each pie to residents. Describe the pie, and then encourage them to look at it and give their opinions on the look, texture, etc. Then have residents taste and share their opinions of that experience as well. If you are looking to make it extra fun, have cards for each person, labeled 1-5. Have them hold up their overall pie score, 5 being the highest, for each pie tasted. To add to the celebratory atmosphere, the Golden Age Entertainment station has favorite hits playing in the afternoon hours.

Something in the Evening – Serenity
March 12 is both Plant a Flower Day and Girl Scouts day. You know that I smell an intergenerational activity here. Invite a local Girl Scout (or Daisy) troop to your community for a flower planting party. Not sure where to find a local troop? Ask around to see if any staff members have a Girl Scout at home or call your local elementary school to see if they have a troop contact number that they would give you. Gather residents and Scouts to paint small terracotta flower pots, and then plant seeds or transplant flowers or herbs into the dried pots. While waiting for the pots to dry, serve refreshments and encourage conversation between the residents and the Scouts. (Try placing conversation cards in the center of each table to take the awkwardness out of the interaction.) Don’t leave the room silent while painting and planting – click on your Serenity Station to add relaxing music.

An Idea for You…Love the Heart 

You’re an activity professional, so you already know that there is a unique day or month, for everything. From National Talk Like A Pirate Day (September 19) to National Eye Exam Month (August), there is always something fun to celebrate. I’m the first to admit that some of the days are ridiculous, but I have found plenty of inspiration from both the crazy dates, as well as the legit ones. The month of March actually finds quite a few of my favorite things to celebrate. Besides St. Patrick’s Day and Women’s History Month, there’s an extra reason to celebrate music in March, too. And here at Companion Radio, we love another reason to make our hearts — and residents sing.

The National Association for Music Education designates March as National Music in our Schools Month. We think that you can use this opportunity to highlight music, Companion Radio, and intergenerational programming throughout your community. The theme for 2015 is “Music Makes Me __________”, which is a great discussion starter to kick off your celebrations.

Remember to get local students involved with your celebrations as well, all while keeping in mind that teachers (and parents) need plenty of time to plan a field trip or evening activity. Don’t wait until the last minute to contact your neighborhood school or day care.

Give a call to the local school and find out if you can schedule a concert at your community – 3rd and 4th graders are introduced to the recorder and teachers are always looking for a place to practice their concert songs. You can also tap into middle school and high school choruses or band groups. If you plan ahead enough, you might be able to schedule a kid-presented concert every Friday night for the whole month. Serve petit fours and sparkling juice in champagne flutes to complete the experience.

If you can’t pull a concert series together, or if you are looking for a younger crowd, contact your local day care center to see if you could schedule a music based play date at your community. Lead a group with residents and little ones that encourages exploring or making musical instruments. An intergenerational drum circle would also work great and benefit everyone who attends.

During all of your planning, don’t forget to use your biggest music helper — Companion Radio. A group of kids and residents can enjoy your Companion Radio programming together. How will you bring music, and kids, to your residents this month?

Celebrate Diversity

February might make most think of Valentine’s Day, but the entire month is also designated to celebrate Black History. While you should certainly celebrate cultural diversity all year round with special events and lectures, setting apart February to spend more time diving into Black History is good practice.

Companion Radio is here to support your Black History Month celebrations. We have written special programming into our monthly calendar for February that you can use as stand-alone activities, or as a complement to another program that you plan for your community.

Even if your community is not diverse, maybe especially so, you should still make time to learn about history-making figures in the Civil Rights movement as well as those making a difference today. If your community is diverse, encourage residents to come alongside you and help you to develop programming. In fact, many times your residents can become the programming.

Residents have lived through the Civil Rights movement and watched the role of black Americans change and shift over the past few decades alone. Invite residents to talk in a panel discussion about their memories and thoughts or to share stories with you to add to the newsletter or activity calendar. Getting residents involved not only adds to the truth and validity of the programming, it gives those residents a feeling of purpose and legacy sharing.

Make your programs a multi-sensory experience by adding music from Companion Radio and food from your dining department. A few years ago, my residents helped my dining director create a soul food dinner that residents were still talking about a full year later. The dining team incorporated residents’ recipes and favorites and everyone left with a full belly and mind.

This February, don’t get swept up in only heart programming. Remember Black History and watch the impact that it can make at your community.

February Radio Companion

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Reminiscence
Consider working with your dining department to serve a love-themed breakfast this month. Set out red placemats and pink napkins along with flowers at each table. Serve heart shaped pancakes and red/pink fruit cups (think strawberries, cherries and watermelon). Have whipped cream and red sprinkles (use what you have left from Christmas!) available to put on top of hot cocoa. You can do this as your regular breakfast, or you can host a special sign-up only event or even a social. Click on your Companion Radio to enjoy some lovely music along the way.

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri
Celebrate Presidents Day with some brain-working games and activities. Don’t worry – you don’t have to jump online to print out some quick presidential trivia. Just click on your Companion Radio and tune into the Games program. This month, we feature American Presidents in a guessing game format that will get your residents thinking! Serve a red, white and blue parfait (blueberries, strawberries and whipped cream) afterwards.

Something in the Evening – Potpourri
Roses are red, violets are blue, have your residents listen to some poetry, and even write some too! The poetry programming this month is especially good and can be a versatile tool to add some intellectual activities to your calendar in the evening. This month, you can catch both love poems in celebration of Valentine’s Day and poems from classic African American poets in honor of Black History Month. Take some time to listen to the poems with your group, discuss what they liked and didn’t like, and then pull a topic to write a poem together (or have residents write poems individually). Remember, poems don’t have to rhyme. Publish your completed poem in next month’s newsletter or have a poetry reading night.

An Idea for You…Love the Heart

In February, everyone is already thinking of hearts. While residents and staff might be thinking about the kind of hearts with glitter and sparkle, you can also provide programming that highlights another kind of heart – the kind that actually beats and pumps and keeps us alive. February is American Heart Month, which is a natural complement to your heart-based programming. Here are a few ideas on how you can partner with other departments in your community to promote healthy hearts throughout your community!

Give Information – Join up with your Wellness Director or Director of Nursing to plan a Heart Health lecture for residents and interested family members. Extra credit if you can get your Medical Director or other doctor to come in to lead this lecture. Give your residents interesting information about how the heart works, common health problems and diagnoses and ways to keep the heart ticking. When residents leave, have them write down one thing that they learned on a red or pink heart cut out. Post these somewhere in your activity room or by the nursing stations.

Exercise With Friends – Exercise is one of the best ways to keep your heart healthy, and exercise can look different to everyone. Partner with your therapy department to host different exercise classes throughout the week or month. Residents can try out different classes (think yoga, chair tai chi, stretching class, walking club, swim class if your community has pool access, Zumba Gold, etc.) to find one that they enjoy. Be sure to highlight these exercise classes on your activity calendar.

Heart Healthy Food – Partner with Dining to host a heart healthy snack taste test. Have your dining team explain what to look for in regards to label reading for heart healthy food. Then, pass out small samples of some heart healthy snacks and entrees for residents to taste and vote on. Encourage your dining team to add the winning food options to the menu for this month.

Raise Money and Awareness – Get residents and staff involved to raise awareness and money for the American Heart Association. Have your Administrator approve a “Casual Dress Day” on every Friday of February. To wear jeans, staff would have to pay $1 (or more) to get a red sticker to designate that they paid to wear jeans. You can also have a Wear Red for Women day to raise awareness of heart disease in women. Encourage staff and residents to wear red on this day. Money raised can go to the American Heart Association or another organization that your community chooses.

Let It Go

Before we dive into this month, let’s all take a collective sigh of relief together, shall we? The holiday rush is over, your community had a festive season and you had some extra time to enjoy at home. Pat yourself on the back and relish in our applause. You did it, you made it, and your residents are lucky to have you.

Now, let’s move forward. We are on to January, a month full of reasons to start something new, be a better person, and start a new habit. This year, as you are sifting through resolutions and deciding if you should lose weight, journal more, or join a gym, could I suggest you consider wise words from an Ice Princess named Elsa?

Yes, last year, my four year old son was one taken by the phenomenon of the hit movie Frozen. I can sing you the entire soundtrack and we have at least 2 Olaf shirts in his laundry hamper right now. But there is something to the famous song, Let It Go.

This year, let go of your unrealistic expectations and instead focus on what you can actually do. Let go of taking things personally when people comment on your programming, and instead focus on creating programming that your residents love. Let go of pretending to love that exasperating family member, and focus on keeping patient and remember that she is experiencing a crisis in her mother’s life. Let go of feuding with the maintenance department because they never help set up for events, and instead focus on the amazing teamwork offered by other departments throughout your community. Let go of the regulations you cannot control, and focus on completing your paperwork to the best of your ability.

Let go of trying to be perfect, and pledge to be present with your residents and staff. Let go of pretending that you have it all together, and instead ask for help when you need it. Let go of never asking for vacation days because you think that the community will fall apart without you there, and instead take the time off!

This January, start singing in the hallways and… Let It Go!

January Radio Companion

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
January is all about new starts, new habits and a clean slate. Foster your residents’ natural response to try new things at the beginning of the new year by introducing exercise group punch cards. Make it a community initiative to start 2015 with healthy exercise habits. Create a sheet of paper for each resident where he can log his exercise group attendance for the month, then advertise prizes to reward your exercisers along the way. Five exercise classes warrants a smoothie from the dining department, while 20 classes will get them a water bottle. There are plenty of exercise groups available on the Potpourri Station, and we especially love the Stretching or Low Impact classes that are offered in the mornings.

Something in the Afternoon – Reminiscence
You know that you just have to celebrate the King’s birthday on January 8th! He would have been 80 years young, so bring your residents together for a social to discuss if you think he would still be hip shaking at 80 and to eat his favorite peanut butter and banana sandwiches. We have a full music special dedicated to Elvis himself on the Reminiscence Station, so save the money hiring the cheesy impersonator and spend the leftover money on fun party favors like Elvis wigs and mutton chops.

Something in the Evening – Serenity Station
January 29th is National Puzzle Day and with the wintry weather outside, I can’t think of a better reason to get in comfy clothes and work a puzzle by the fireplace. Click on our Serenity Station for nice, calming music that adds to the atmosphere without taking over the whole party, then lay out puzzles, of different piece size and count, throughout the living room on tables. Serve cups of popcorn or pretzels, and even have your Activity staff wear ‘jammies’ and slippers.

National Bath Safety Month

January is National Bath Safety Month, and the perfect time to partner with multiple departments in your community to bring your residents some significant safety information. According to this article, 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 will fall this year and 80% of these falls are in the bathroom. You don’t necessarily need this statistic to realize that falls are a big deal. Most communities have a ‘fall committee’ that see falls inside and outside of their facility on a regular basis. Use January to infuse some great information to your residents and family members, as well as to review some education for your staff members. Here are a few ideas to get you started on this educational push in January.

  • Partner with your therapy department to have a family and resident education session on bath safety tips. Consider getting your marketing department in on the event; open the event to prospects and other medical professionals for CEU (continuing education unit) credit. Give tiny rubber ducks as a party favor for coming.
  • Partner with the maintenance department and falls committee to set up an ‘unsafe scavenger hunt’ for staff and residents. Take an empty room and create different fall risks inside the bathroom. Have residents and staff go through the room throughout the day and write down each of the risks they see. Draw a few winners at the end of the day for a prize. Your staff members can get in-service credit too!
  • Have residents sign up for a safety check of their own bathroom in their apartment.
  • Plan and host several Spa Nights throughout the month. Work with nursing to give manicures, facials and spa baths. Many of our residents are always given showers and never get to use the spa baths we have in our communities. Let them try it out and plan your staffing accordingly for those evenings or afternoons. Have residents sign up and cap the participation to the number of residents you and nursing can safely handle during that time.

Christmas Carols – Older is Better

Here at Companion Radio, we love reading and talking about anything music related. We try our best to stay informed of any music research so that we can bring you and your residents the most effective, relevant and entertaining programming possible. One of the most important aspects of the holidays is the music! Everyone has a favorite Christmas carol and so many memories are tied to songs that are only played for one month a year. Christmas tunes are a peek into childhood memories, family traditions, and maybe even some adult loss.

A study from 2012 showed that when it comes to Christmas carols, older is almost always better. Typically, music that is popular for a finite period of time slowly loses its appeal and becomes less popular as time marches on. However, Christmas carols just seem to get better with age. The Edison Research study shows that over half of the best testing (and most loved) holiday tunes are from 1967 and earlier. In fact, the best testing song of the study was “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”, sung by Andy Williams, is from 1963.

When you pull out your holiday CDs or tune in to your Companion Radio, don’t be afraid to stick to the classics. Not only will the older songs relate to our residents better, but everyone else will appreciate the older songs as well. Fa la la la la!

December Radio Companion

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
I don’t know about you, but it is always difficult to schedule events on Christmas Eve Day and Christmas. Most of my staff is off or working an abbreviated schedule, but I still want to give families and residents an active holiday calendar. The Potpourri Station solves your scheduling concerns this year, friends! Caroling is offered twice on both Christmas Eve and day. Set up some hot cocoa, have a staff member click on your Companion Radio, and let the festivities begin.

Something in the Afternoon – Reminiscence
After you throw a fun take on a New Year’s Eve party, whether your countdown is at noon (for a Noon Year’s Party) or at another time, ring in the afternoon with a New Year’s Eve music special on your Companion Radio. Residents will still have their noise makers and silly hats, and you can keep the party rolling through the afternoon with some popcorn and champagne.

Something in the Evening – Serenity
You guys. December 5 is Bathtub Party Day and for some reason, I can’t stop giggling. Use this fun holiday to make some bathtub friendly holiday gifts. Your residents can easily make homemade bath salts in this activity and package them to give to family and friends. You can put the salts in cellophane bags, tied with a pretty ribbon. Check out an easy recipe here. Click on your Companion Radio’s Serenity Station for the perfect relaxing music to set the tone for this unique and fun activity.

An Idea for You: A Holiday Carol Social

CarolersMake your Companion Radio holiday music come to life by putting on this fun, and tasty, social based on well known Christmas carols. You can easily make this the theme of your family holiday celebration offering small portions of each featured dish for family and residents to taste. If you want to make it a bit more interactive, consider having scoring sheets for participants to taste test and then judge. If you are looking for the opportunity to plan a holiday event with your marketing team, this holiday social might be the perfect fit – it is fun, unique, and interactive.

Since food is the centerpiece of this event, work closely with your dining services department and do your best to be flexible. Some dishes might not be realistic for your dining team to execute and you might have to rework a few recipes.

Your decorations can be either holiday themed (mini Christmas trees for centerpieces, some sparkle tossed in), or music themed (music note table cloths, black and white napkins and plates). Try to put your time and energy into the menu development before the event and your extra thought and planning will shine.

Use Companion Radio to provide the perfect atmosphere to accompany your musical social. For the menu, consider any of the following items to get you started. During the event, be sure that you tell guests what song each food is from or have them guess.

Eggnog – Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer – “she’d been drinking too much eggnog…”
Popcorn – Let It Snow! – “and I’ve brought some corn for popping”
Pumpkin Pie – There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays – “and he was headed for Pennsylvania, and some homemade pumpkin pie”
Figgy Pudding – We Wish You A Merry Christmas – “now bring us some figgy pudding”
Roasted Chestnuts – The Christmas Song – “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”

You can even add latkes to your food choices to make this event more encompassing to all faiths.

No matter what you and your dining team decide to do, we think that this musical inspired event will be fun for all.

Things to be Thankful For

We have an amazing job, don’t we? I mean, being an Activity or Recreation Professional has got to be one of the most challenging and most rewarding jobs and yet, no one really knows about it. This year, to get your heart in the right place before the 20th scout troop calls to come caroling and before you have to think of one more thing to make with pumpkin, let’s think about all the things that we can be thankful for in this job.

We listen. This opportunity, to me, is right at the top of the list. Not only do we get paid to listen to our residents and make them feel valued, we also get a glimpse into history right from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. I have learned more about World War II and the Beatles from my resident chats than my husband, who majored in History in college, learned from his classes. You know that you have a favorite story when a resident shared a bit of his life with you – what a gift!

No day is the same. Can I get an amen? Even the most Type A Planners among us (myself included) can appreciate the fact that we are never quite sure what the day will hold when we walk into our community. Some of my favorite times at work are when there is an “all hands on deck” opportunity where I needed to toss the to-do list for the day, improvise and pitch in with my team to serve the residents or community in an unplanned way.

We are constantly learning. There’s always something new to learn or research in our jobs. Don’t know how to crochet? You learn. Don’t know where to find a Buddhist temple? You Google it. Don’t know how to find a hedgehog that can visit your community? You ask around. And, all of that happened on Wednesday! We are resourceful and constantly learning new things that we can surprise our friends with at our next dinner party. And we get paid to do it!

People (generally) like us. While we are not at work to be the most popular, there is something satisfying about knowing that our job brings people laughter and joy. We have the opportunity to bring families together, to help residents pursue their passions, and to give staff members a little break from the mundane. It’s good for our souls to be good for the souls of those we serve.

This Thanksgiving, be happy and thankful for your job – it’s a pretty good one. And, know that we here at Companion Radio are thankful for you and everything you do to keep residents on their toes.

November Radio Companion

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri

November 1st is Book Lovers Day. You don’t have to tell me twice as I love getting caught up in a new book. Celebrate by tuning into Books for Listeners and diving into a good read. This month, we are featuring Mark Twain who wrote some classic American literature that your residents might not have read in awhile. Take some time to reintroduce your group to Twain and bring along some fun trivia facts about the author to discuss before you click on your Companion Radio. Don’t forget to serve some tasty warm beverages!

Something in the Afternoon – Serenity

November 13 is World Kindness Day which sounds like the perfect time to plan a Pay It Forward Day. Before the 13th arrives, work with residents to determine small ways that your community can pay it forward on World Kindness Day. You might choose to write letters to a local children’s hospital, make fleece tied blankets for a local homeless shelter, or simply make welcome wreaths to hang on the door of newly admitted residents. Whatever project you choose to work on, tune into Serenity Station to set a relaxing and creative atmosphere.

Something in the Evening – Golden Age Entertainment

November 16th is Have a Party with Your Bear Day. I know, I know – who comes up with these things?! But, this sounds like a great excuse to have an inter-generational pajama party. Invite great grandchildren, or a local preschool group, to come over for snacks and story time at your community. Be sure that everyone brings their favorite stuffed animal! You can go as elaborate or as low key as you want with this celebration, but be sure to have snacks available, as well as a good story to read to the group. You can also click on your Companion Radio to enjoy some tunes to simply set the festive stage or to have a bear dance party. Have fun!

Music for Your Muscles

It is easy to find studies and examples of how music can positively affect brain and mental health. While the benefits of music on our brain are very interesting and exciting, have you ever stopped to think about how music can help you physically? Believe it or not, if you are looking to set a new personal record on your next run or decrease your appetite, music might just be the answer.

What is your favorite music to listen to when you need some additional energy? For me, a stay-at-home Mama to a (very energetic) four year old, turning up my favorite tunes can give me an extra boost of energy to get through a trying day. Studies have shown that your body will work harder and move faster when you listen to upbeat music that you enjoy. Next time you are doing deep house cleaning or need to walk just an extra half mile, try finding your favorite music to give you the extra push.

Now that your workout is done, your body needs to recover and get ready for the next task. Researchers demonstrated that listening to music after a workout helped the muscle recovery process. While slower, quiet music can certainly lead to general relaxation, as long as the music you choose to listen to is music that you like, your muscles will thank you in the long run.

Dimming the lights and turning on some quiet music can turn your next meal into a romantic one. But, setting the stage can also make you slow down and become more mindful during dinner, which can lead to eating less. Who knew that some slow tunes could possibly lead to a smaller waistline?

Here at Companion Radio, we have 4 channels of music that are sure to meet your tastes and interests. Check them out and get started experiencing the power of music!

Not Too Sweet

October is home to National Diabetes Month and is a wonderful way to raise awareness for a disease that affects many of our residents and family members. Before October arrives, meet with your nursing staff, wellness director or dining services director to coordinate at least a few educational and social opportunities to highlight National Diabetes Month. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Educational opportunities can focus on diabetes prevention or management. Consider being a host site for blood sugar screenings; you can keep it just for your residents and family members, or can open it up to the community and make it a marketing event. Contact a local hospital and arrange a lecture about diabetes prevention or management for your residents.
  • Incorporate food services to your calendar by offering Sugar Free Happy Hour where residents can sample new sugar free selections. Chances are, food vendors that work with your community can even provide samplings for your dining services team to prepare and dish out in sample sizes.
  • Work with a preferred podiatrist to find a diabetic shoe company that can come out to your community and size residents for appropriate and safe shoes.
  • Have a local dietician come in to review menus with residents or provide a lecture on eating smart with diabetes (with samples, of course!)
  • Host a fundraiser with all money going towards the American Diabetes Association or another local diabetes group of your choice. Perhaps a fun social hour or dance along with a silent auction and 50/50 raffle could be a chance to have some fun and raise money for a great cause. Be sure to use Companion Radio for the background music, too!

Many of your residents live with diabetes and the disease can, at times, seem overwhelming. October can be the perfect chance to educate everyone about the ins and outs of the disease so that your residents can be healthier for longer.

October Radio Companion

Here are a few activity ideas you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Potpourri
October is the perfect month to spice up your regular exercise classes with a few fun and functional props. Your residents will love that you step out of your usual routine and try something new and exciting. Have residents exercise with Halloween themed props, many of which you might have lying around in your storage room already. Grab orange and black streamers or garland to use for range of motion exercises or lightweight jack-o-lantern decorations. Even an orange balloon with a Sharpie-drawn jack-o-lantern can make each resident feel festive and keep exercise from getting boring. Try out a few festive additions to your next exercise program and don’t forget to utilize Companion Radio‘s stretching and exercise classes airing every morning.

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri
October 6 is Mad Hatter Day, which sounds like the perfect reason to throw a Mad Hatter Tea Party. Encourage residents to wear their favorite hat and, before the event date, schedule a hat making workshop so folks can make their own hat out of various materials. Use this hat workshop as a great way to clean out some of the embellishments in your craft closet. Serve traditional tea party fare, like cucumber sandwiches and have various teas for residents to sample and enjoy. Consider inviting a group from the local daycare or preschool to join your group for the festivities. To add to the fun, be sure to tune and play Companion Radio‘s Name That Tune.

Something in the Evening – Golden Age Entertainment
You can’t go through the month of October without having a Barn Dance! Celebrate the harvest and all things fall by putting on some cowboy boots and line dancing with your residents. For extra credit, invite families and make it a boot stompin’ marketing event. I bet you can even find a traveling petting zoo who will bring animals (and hand sanitizer) into your community’s yard. Decorate with some hay bales and cowboy hats and serve sweet tea and farm fresh goodies made from the local farmer’s market. Add to the atmosphere by tuning into Companion Radio to enjoy the Country Showcase program.

To the Beat of a Different Drum

As you can probably tell by now, I love a good monthly theme. Not only does having a theme help me keep fresh and fun ideas planned every month, a theme also gives my calendar a cohesive feel. I always keep resident favorites on my calendar, and not every activity has to do with the theme, but having a theme for the week, month or quarter keeps me creatively on my toes. October is International Drum Month and I cannot think of a better theme to complement your Companion Radio programming at your community.

Drumming has significant benefits for all people, and studies dealing with drumming and seniors specifically have shown that seniors reap just as many benefits as their younger drummers. Drumming has been shown to decrease anxiety, stress and depression – three issues that are certainly dominant in the people that we serve. Further, drumming can assist residents in participating in movement that crosses the midline (significant in dementia prevention), as well as increasing joint flexibility and fine motor skills. In addition to just being plain fun, drumming can also increase immunity and energy for our residents. What’s not to love?

Leading a drumming group can seem intimidating at first. While you can always find a music therapist or drum circle leader in your greater community, you might be surprised that you can incorporate drumming in your regular programming easier than you might think. Your drums don’t need to be high tech or, even drums at all. Using cups and sticks, eating utensils, tambourines or other shakers give the same benefits as professional drums from the music store.

You can add tapping or shaking into almost any activity, from exercise to trivia to a social or happy hour. Don’t be afraid to get your get your residents shaking and tapping – the loud noise will lead to laughter and increased health for everyone in the circle.

Have fun!

Bring on the Dance

In 2003, a published study in the New England Journal of Medicine followed seniors for 21 years in the hopes of looking at their leisure pursuits and cognitive decline. Researchers hoped to see what kinds of leisure could possibly help prevent dementia. They studied and followed everything from reading to running, crossword puzzles to swimming. Their findings have shaped dementia preventative programming across the country ever since.

While it was found that reading and crossword puzzles (at least 4 times per week) were some of the best things to do that can keep cognitive acuity at its best, everyone was quite surprised by what was rated as the #1 activity to keep dementia away – dancing! Dancing frequently had a 76% rate of keeping dementia at bay, almost 30% higher than crossword puzzles. Friends, this is a reason to get out your dancing shoes.

Your residents might feel uncomfortable or timid about joining in a dancing program, but there are many ways that you can incorporate dancing into your calendar of activities at least weekly.

  • Bring dance into your exercise classes. Teach your residents different steps or series of motions that can be done seated or standing.
  • Use props. Bring out long streamers or ribbons on sticks and have residents use the props to move the way the music makes them feel.
  • Play music all the time. Have Companion Radio playing all the time. If you foster a culture of music and dance within your community, the staff and residents will pick up on that and start dancing on their own.
  • Invite the kids. For a wonderful intergenerational activity, invite a local kids dance studio in for a performance. After they perform, have them stay to teach residents a short routine.
  • Get festive. Once a month or even once a quarter, throw a themed dance party. Whether you learn square dancing at a Barn Dance or the twist at a Sock Hop, learn new dances in a fun way. Encourage staff to get involved too!
  • Educate your residents and families. Empower your residents by giving them the information about how dance can keep dementia at bay. You just might get a few extra residents involved with a dance class just by reminding them of the benefits.

So, what are you waiting for? Dust off your dancing shoes and turn up Companion Radio. Have some fun with your residents, and enjoy the healthy benefits along the way.

September Radio Companion

Here are a few activity ideas you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Golden Age Entertainment
September is Better Breakfast Month and I don’t know about you but I love anything that has to do with eating first thing in the morning. You can celebrate all month long by partnering with your dining services department to offer ‘better breakfast‘ selections throughout the month and by getting your nursing or wellness staff to give brief presentations at breakfast on the benefits of healthy morning foods like oatmeal (sprinkle some flax or hemp seeds on it too!) and power fruits like blueberries. You can also use this month to have taste testing parties (regular pancakes vs. ones like these) or a healthy toppings bar for oatmeal or yogurt parfaits. The sky is the limit to exploring a better breakfast and educating your residents on how eating better in the morning can serve them well throughout the rest of the day. Don’t forget to tune into Companion Radio‘s Golden Age Entertainment for the perfect music to add to the atmosphere.

Something in the Afternoon – Reminiscence
Tune Companion Radio in to Reminiscence for music honoring Patriot Day (9/11). Only you know the culture and climate of your community and how to best remember September 11. You might choose to take an interactive tour of the new Memorial in New York City, have a time of silent or guided prayer, lead a discussion or make cookies for your local emergency response teams. No matter how you choose to program for it, be sure that you utilize Companion Radio‘s musical tribute.

Something in the Evening – Serenity
September 21st is one of my favorite days for programming – it is World Gratitude Day! Having an “attitude of gratitude” has been linked with decreased depression and a sense of empowerment in people of all ages and this day is one to celebrate with your residents. I find that after dinner is a wonderful time to gather folks together to talk about, or write about, their blessings.

While you can start the discussion with a poem or story that you choose, also make sure there is plenty of time for self reflection. Turn on your Companion Radio to Serenity for music that will encourage creativity and inspiration.  You can have residents talk or journal about what they are thankful for. Whether they mention small things like a sunny day or big things like a healthy report from the doctor, you will likely be surprised on where the conversation goes. And, everyone will leave inspired and with a thankful heart.

Music for the Short Term Stay Resident

If you work in a skilled nursing community, you are probably well versed in the “short term stay resident”. The Medicare resident. The “rehab” or “therapy only” resident. You know the ones – the otherwise healthy resident who has chosen to have a hip replaced or knee surgery and is at your community for 90 days or less to rehab. We love our short term stay residents but they can often pose a programming challenge.

Many times, our short term stay residents are in a good amount of pain and might be taking some pretty heavy duty pain killers that make them too tired to participate in our activities. They may choose to only leave their room for meals and therapy sessions. Or, they just don’t have a desire to participate in group activities. But, we are still charged with making sure that they are actively pursuing their leisure interests while at our community. This is challenging, to say the least.

Thankfully, music can often be an engaging (and portable) way to connect with our short term stay folks. Here are a few ideas for incorporating music into your independent leisure choices:

  • Have mp3 players or iPods® available for residents to check out from your office. Have them pre-loaded with a variety of music.
  • If possible position Companion Radio in the living room or common area of your short term stay wing at your community. Leave it on all the time so that residents can enjoy the music and programming whenever they wish. Give copies of the Radio Companion programming guide to interested residents.
  • Hire strolling musicians to stroll room to room throughout your Medicare wing once a week or so. You can find music students at the local high school or college who would love the opportunity to make some extra cash and brighten the days of your residents.
  • Have a piano in your Medicare wing. You just never know which resident, family member, or staff will know how to play.

August Radio Companion

Whether you work in a dementia unit, a skilled nursing community or even a senior center, chances are high that you are working with residents who are somewhere in their journey with dementia. Depending on which stage of dementia your residents have, it can be scary for both them, and their family. While you are working hard providing meaningful leisure pursuits for them to participate in and enjoy, help them to retain the memory they do have by turning on Companion Radio often.

According to the New York State Department of Health, introducing individualized music to residents with dementia can reduce dementia-related agitation by up to 80 percent. Holy smokes, people. Eighty percent is huge! It may not always be realistic to provide our dementia residents with their own personalized IPods with familiar music, it certainly IS realistic for us to turn on Companion Radio during the day for them to enjoy.

Think about it. Companion Radio has four stations covering a variety of topics and genres. While you might be using Companion Radio as a supplement to your group programming (which is a great way to use it!), have you thought about introducing Companion Radio as an intervention with small groups or even with one-on-one visits? If you can find out favorite tunes or selections from your residents, you can add Companion Radio as an intervention to your care plan.

Another study by the New York State Department of Health showed that bringing in a music therapist to play familiar music three times per week for ten months, for residents with mid-to late-stage dementia, caused an increase in mini mental scores and family recognition. Again, holy smokes! If you could introduce familiar music to your residents three times per week, you might just find that your residents respond even better than you had hoped.

Music is powerful and you have a huge resource in Companion Radio. Use it to bless your residents in groups, small groups, sensory groups and even during one-on-one visits — the possibilities are endless!


August Activities

Here are a few ideas for activities that you can do with your residents that complement Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Serenity
August 3rd is International Forgiveness Day. While this is a somewhat heavy topic, I love the idea of giving your residents the opportunity to let something go. Join forces with your Social Worker (or other mental health professionals or clergy) and plan a short program on steps for forgiveness. Then, give your residents the chance to think and write down who or what they will forgive. While they are thinking and writing, play the Serenity station, which features Gospel music in the morning and evening.  With some thought and planning, this program could be life changing for someone in the audience.

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri Station
The second week in August is National Smile Week. Celebrate by putting a smile on the faces of your residents with Companion Radio’s Comedy Show. End the program with a joke contest for residents and staff or with a silly game of charades.

Something in the Evening – All Stations!
August 20th is National Radio Day. C’mon. This is the perfect day to highlight all things Companion Radio at your community. Consider planning each activity for the day to include, or feature, a Companion Radio station. From exercise to current events, we’ve got you and your residents covered. Have some fun with it and let us know how it goes!

Connect with Dining…

The Activity Department works closely with each department in the community. More so, I think, than any other. This interdisciplinary teamwork can be exciting and educational for everyone involved, or it can be frustrating and cause interdepartmental rifts instead of teams. While you are likely working with each of your departments differently, I would like to focus specifically on the dining department this month and on using Companion Radio to bridge the gap in the dining room during meals.

Sometime this month, set a meeting with your Dining Services Director to talk about Companion Radio and what it offers. You might be surprised that the dining team at your community knows little to nothing about Companion Radio. Spend a few minutes showing them each of the stations (although Reminiscence is the most popular choice for dining rooms, as well as the Radio Companion guide. Then, spend the rest of your meeting brainstorming about how you can use Companion Radio during meal times.

Before the Stampede
Now, I don’t know about you, but at my community, everyone gathers at the (closed) doors of the dining room about 30 minutes prior to the meal. It doesn’t matter if it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner, my residents are raring to go a half an hour before. While we try to maximize this spontaneous “group activity”, sometimes the group doesn’t want to play trivia or read the newspaper — they just want to sit and wait for the doors to open. Companion Radio has been the perfect solution to keeping residents engaged, calm, and more patient. If your Companion Radio is not in a place where it can be used before mealtimes, reconsider the placement.

During the Main Event
Our programming on Reminiscence offers Instrumental Music that is ideal for dining. Between the servers serving, the forks dropping, and the glasses clanking, the dining room is not exactly the most pleasant sensory experience. This sensory overload can be detrimental for our residents and their appetites, especially those with dementia or pain issues. Adding a bit of quiet and calming Instrumental Music from Reminiscence can do wonders for changing the overall feel of your dining experience.

After the Dust Settles
I’m a slow eater. Though, if you ask my husband, he will tell you that I think that he eats too fast. Nonetheless, long after he and my son finish their meal, I am still at the table finishing my meal alone. Some of your residents are slower eaters too, and as the dining room clears of residents and staff members, it can be quiet and even lonely. Clicking on Companion Radio as the crowd starts to fade can keep an otherwise slow eater engaged and focused on finishing their meal, instead of leaving without being full.

Companion Radio can be a wonderful resource for you and the dining department that will benefit your residents in more ways than one. Give it a try this month and see how it goes!

July Radio Companion

July is National Ice Cream month, and it is no wonder why. With the temps rising, there is nothing quite like enjoying a delicious ice cream treat to cool off. This month, when planning your events, celebrate all things ice cream with these ideas.

All American Ice Cream Social – tie in your ice cream celebration with America’s birthday.

Root Beer Float Social – add a little fizz to your celebration with everyone’s favorite treat.

Smoothie Prep Party – join forces with your dining team to host a party where participants can choose items to toss into their own custom smoothie. Have frozen fruit already cut and available (berries and bananas work best), as well as a variety of liquids to blend with (try almond milk and orange juice).

Inter-generational Popsicle Party – invite a class from your local daycare or camp to your community for homemade popsicles. Before the party, your residents can pour juices or spoon yogurt into Popsicle molds and add slices of fruit. Once they are frozen, they are a delicious way to cool off. Leftover popsicles can be passed out to your residents during hydration rounds.

Companion Radio offers many musical selections that can add just the right finishing touch to your event. Be sure to tune in and turn up the volume – you’ll save money on hiring an entertainer and can use the money you save to buy more important things like chocolate syrup and cherries.

July Activities

Here are a few ideas for activities you can plan with your residents that complement the Companion Radio programming.  These are easy to do and you can adapt them to any level of resident ability.  Have fun!

Something in the Morning – Golden Age Entertainment Station
July 10th is Teddy Bear Picnic Day and I think you should totally celebrate it this year! Tune into Companion Radio’s Classic Radio program to keep your residents company as you have tea (or a full picnic) with some stuffed friends. Invite grandchildren or a local daycare class to join you, and be sure that they bring their favorite bear or dolly as well. Don’t forget to set your tables with small plates and cups for the teddy bears!

Something in the Afternoon – Potpourri Station
Add another patriotic event to your evening rotation by tuning into Companion Radio to enjoy An Hour on Broadway. This month, the Companion Radio features 1776 and stars actors portraying John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Your avid Broadway fans, as well as your history buffs will enjoy coming to this program before dinner.

Something in the Evening – Potpourri Station
Do you have night owls at your community? After you and your staff head home and jump into your ‘jammies’, your residents are still ‘up and at ‘em’ at your community. Consider scheduling a ‘late night’ activity a few times a month so that your residents can enjoy therapeutic programming even when you aren’t punched in. This month, try using Companion Radio’s Shoestring Radio Theater in the evening. Have a CNA or nurse supervisor turn the program on and gather residents who are not quite ready to wind down yet. Leave out some nighttime tea bags for the caregiver staff to make for the participants too.

America The Beautiful…

July programming calendar will certainly be full of events and groups that celebrate America! However, after years of planning Fourth of July celebrations and All American Backyard BBQ family nights in July, you might find that your community is doing the same things year after year. If you are looking to shake things up a bit, try celebrating America in these different ways.

Wild West Dance Party – Nothing says America like cowboys, so throw on a 10 gallon hat and a pair of jeans and get started. Serve drinks like iced tea and lemonade in mason jars, and fun food like mini franks and beans. Turn on some folk music with Woody Guthrie during Music Specials on Reminiscence to add a little pizazz to your party too.

Apple Pie Social – Apple pie is as American as it comes, right? Celebrate this delicious treat with a tasty social event. Offer garnishes like ice cream and whipped cream and drinks like sweet tea. This event is a great one to have on a weekend where you can easily include family members with little fuss. If you plan it for after the July 4th holiday, you can score discounted red, white and blue tablecloths and paper goods on the clearance rack to usYour e at your event. You can spend a few extra dollars on a clown at a balloon animal station or a magician. Tune into Companion Radio to set the mood with background music and you are all set for a great (and easy) party.

Cultural Fair – America is a melting pot and chances are your community is too. Celebrate all heritages that combine to make our country so great with a Cultural Fair. Encourage residents, staff members and even family to get involved by representing their heritage through food, entertainment or dress. Run the event like an open house and everyone can look, taste and enjoy the cultures that are represented at your community.