Meaningful Engagement Requires Staff to Practice Self-Care

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, most senior living providers are reporting that their residents are experiencing both cognitive and physical declines due to a lack of consistent and meaningful engagement. Frontline staff members are struggling to provide engagement more than ever before and need support. They now have little outside help with resident engagement activities and are asked to provide one-on-one engagement for all residents at a time when budgets are stretched, turnover can be high and the virus continues to threaten the health and well-being of all individuals in senior living.

Senior living communities must equip their staff with the tools they need to do their job each day and offering opportunities to practice self-care is a key part of this strategy. When staff members are able to take time for self-care, they can then provide every resident with the purposeful experience they want and deserve. Frontline staff members have been put to the test with the COVID-19 pandemic and it is our responsibility to support them now so that they can be the best care partners to residents.

It is heartening to see national advocacy organizations step up on behalf of frontline staff. At LeadingAge, they are currently asking Americans to #Act4OlderAdults by showing their support for a national supply of PPE for frontline staff. In spite of the obstacles they are facing each day, resident engagement professionals nationwide are continuing to show extreme resiliency and creativity. Reopening fully will take months, if not years, and so because this is a marathon and not a sprint, steps must be taken to give staff the tools they need for self-care.

According to Dr. Jennifer Stelter, Psy.D., CDP, CADDCT, CCTP, there are three steps to practicing effective self-care:

  • Healthcare professionals should recognize and reflect on why they do not practice self-care regularly. They often can go on without using their ‘oxygen mask’ but soon enough they won’t be able to function. This can lead to prolonged stress and anxiety, followed by burnout.  Having that self-care check, whether that’s weekly or monthly can really help to catch stressors that are impacting their health.
  • Then, they need to trial and build their toolbox for what works to help manage their emotional, physical, spiritual, and cognitive health. Reflect on what coping skills have worked in the past and brush those cobwebs off to use or try a new strategy to see if it helps. The key is to build an eclectic toolbox for however they may be feeling.
  • Lastly, they should incorporate their self-care regimen by scheduling these tools into their daily routine just like they would a meeting or appointment, increasing accountability and success. These scheduled self-care times may change as seasons change, however, in the event these aren’t scheduled then it’s easy to say that life gets in the way.

The good news is that incorporating self-care into one’s life isn’t a costly thing and yet the benefits of doing so are immense! Industries outside of senior living have been providing self-care tools and support for many years already. Now is the time to acknowledge, educate and empower activity and life enrichment professionals so they can care for themselves and in turn meaningfully engage residents so that they can live with purpose each day. Now is the time to make our staff #ActivitiesStrong!

This blog was co-written by: Dr. Jennifer Stelter, Psy.D., CDP, CADDCT, CCTP