If you’ve worked in assisted living for a while, you’re probably familiar with National Assisted Living Week (NALW). If you’re new to the industry, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. In this blog, you’ll find some background, as well as some ideas and recommendations for making this week special.
National Assisted Living Week began in 1995 and is celebrated annually in September, typically beginning on Grandparents Day. This week-long celebration is an opportunity for providers to host events and activities that celebrate both their residents and staff. In addition, NALW helps highlight the incredible work and dedication of those working in this industry and helps to fight the stigma associated with moving into a facility and out of your home.
Each year a new theme is chosen, and the theme for 2020 has been appropriately selected: “Caring is Essential”. The goal is to celebrate the care provided by essential caregivers in assisted living, especially in a year where they have been called upon to serve on the front lines of a pandemic and protect our most vulnerable population. Although this year’s celebrations might look a little bit different depending on your phase of re-opening and state guidelines, there are still a lot of ways to celebrate your caregivers and residents! Below are some ways that you can celebrate National Assisted Living Week 2020 with your residents and staff both as individual groups and together.
- Encourage your families to drive by in caravans to say hello. You can also encourage them to bring special signs, decorations, etc. for their loved ones.
- If you’re not able to have families and friends visit indoors, invite them to have a window visit with their loved one. You can also help to facilitate a Zoom or FaceTime call for them.
- Chalk their walk. Have your team write fun messages to your residents with a window view to give them something to smile about. You can also take messages from their loved ones and friends and put them outside their windows or on a walking/frequently traveled path.
- Get them in on the fun and special treats. Take a poll and purchase a special snack, treat, lunch, or dinner based on what your residents are in the mood for (or your budget). You can invite them to enjoy this at a gathering outside, socially distanced, or individually, depending on your phase of re-opening.
- Invite them to bake cookies and create cards for essential workers in your community. Although delivering them is a nice touch, it might be best for you or another team member to deliver them this year.
- Celebrate Grandparents Day. Many of your resident’s are grandparents and love to celebrate this day. Although visitors might not be an option this year, several of the options above are a great way to celebrate and connect your residents with their families. You can also offer special desserts and invite your staff to make cards for your residents for this special day.
- Have NALW be a “spirit week” and allow your staff to dress up or wear fun themed outfits. Choose a theme for each day and encourage staff to be creative.
- Hold a raffle and give away some prizes. You could do a few large gift baskets or larger-ticket assisted living week gifts, or choose smaller items that you could raffle throughout the week.
- Have your managers hand-write thank you notes to their teams for all of their hard work. This year, specifically referencing their hard work and dedication throughout the pandemic is an extra special touch.
- Invite and encourage those that you have partnerships with to sponsor a day for your team. They can bring in goodies and treats to help celebrate the week.
- Pass out something special that can be individually-wrapped and given to everyone. It could be a soft pretzel, candy bar, hand sanitizer, lotion, etc. with a fun saying or note.
- Chalk your walk. Like many did during the beginning of the pandemic, write notes of thanks and appreciation to your team of essential caregivers on your sidewalks and driveways. You can also include your residents by encouraging them to help come up with designs and sayings.
- Give your team a break and work on the floor for them for a designated period of time. They can use this time to spend with a resident one-on-one or to take a break in general.
- Encourage your families and those in the community to send notes of love and encouragement to your residents and gratitude to your staff.
- Have an ice cream truck come to your location to provide your residents and staff with frozen treats. It’s a great way to celebrate the end of summer and NALW. You could also opt for a French fry or other food truck if you think it will be a better fit. Just make sure that your lines are socially distanced and that you inquire with the company about their sanitation and COVID precautions.
- Decorate your facility by purchasing official NALW items or make your own! This year, you can purchase lawn signs, as well as posters, that celebrate your staff and residents. They are available for purchase from the American Health Care Association website.
- If your re-opening guidelines allow it, create a time and place that your staff and residents can do something fun together. They could do a puzzle, listen to music, sing and dance, do a craft, etc. – anything that helps bring them together and enjoy each other’s company.
In addition to these assisted living week ideas, it is also a good idea to make sure you are properly communicating your plans to anyone that typically participates, especially your staff, residents and families. Sending out a letter that explains your plans is a great way to keep everyone on the same page and set clear guidelines for how you will need to handle things this year with regards to the pandemic. It’s also a good idea to find a way to remind your staff and residents of theme days and special activities. Creating a flyer and posting it in a well-traveled area of your building can be a great way to remind your staff, while adding any special days or events to your activity calendar is a great way to remind your residents.
We hope that you enjoy an incredible week with your staff and residents!