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Section 15
Making Time for Alzheimer's and Low-Functioning...
by Organizing Your Activity Space

Table of Contents

Organizing your Working Area
The DVD dealt with a formula for balancing your Activity Department schedule based on CMS Survey Guidelines.  This article deals with efficiently organizing your Activity Area.  As you are aware, whether you like to admit it or not, an efficient, well-organized Activities Area has a great impact on your ability to perform effectively.  If you are going to be giving Culture Change Inservice Training to CNAs you have be organized enough to find the visual aids, paper work, etc. you will need to train staff, CNAs, and volunteers.  Agree?

I have found, probably like you have, the secret lies in the art of placement.

  • Rule number one?  Ask yourself, “Do I put the items I use most often where I can lay my hands on them most easily?” Look at your desk or visualize it right now, and the area immediately surrounding your desk.  Ask yourself.  Do you have decorations, craft supplies, or note papers from months ago within arms reach?

•   If you are right-handed, place your phone on your left, and a pad and pen next to it so you can easily take notes when the phone rings. If you’re left-handed, do the reverse, of course. You might consider purchasing a headset for your phone in order to keep both of your hands free.

•   As you sit at your desk, let's go from your phone placement to your file folders.  What file folders do you use the most often?  Set the three, four, or five files you review most often at the front of your desk file drawer, or keep them in a vertical file on top of your desk or credenza.  Would it be logical for you to file away any desktop folders that you use less than three or four times a week? Keep reference material like supplier catalogues within swiveling distance—perhaps on a credenza or two drawer file cabinet beside your desk.

•   Put "Putting Things Away" into Staff's job description.  Sound good?  Ready to hire a new activity staff member?  Quick!  Before he or she starts his or her first day of work, if your corporation allows, update the position’s job description to include "putting things away" as part of their job!  What else do you need to do to make sure your working space has a “organized” look to it?  Impossible?  Well, yes, immediately after a big party, holiday, or activity total organization is impossible.  But ask yourself, how long do these items stay on "display" before the clown hats, wrapping paper, etc. is put away?  Set a limit and stick to it.  Remember with Culture Change you are now inservicing and making requests of other departments.  They need to view you and your Activity area with respect.  Do you agree that if you want respect you need to present yourself and your department as organized as possible ?

Appoint a staff member to be in charge of "Putting Things Away" and make it part of their job description!

Write in this box a commitment to a course of action regarding organizing your work area:  I plan to do what…

Organizing Community Contacts
•   How well organized are your phone numbers?  Setting up your own phone directory is, as you know, a must.  How many phone numbers do you currently have that are still on scraps of paper taped to your wall or stacked in a tray? You can use an address book, Rolodex, Excel program, Date Book Program, etc. as you collect often-used numbers. Personally, I like hard copies in a Rolodex format because when a supplier or volunteer calls me, the person on the other end of the line will not wait for my date book computer program to boot-up in my computer for me to take notes as to why he or she is calling.  But I can quickly grab an "old fashioned" Rolodex card to write on.  Consider organizing suppliers by category.  Would it work for you to keep all volunteer cards together under the letter V and write the word “Volunteer” at the top of each card?  Or if you have numerous volunteers write "Group Volunteers," "Religious Volunteers," "Birthday Volunteers," etc. at the top of each card and file under the letters that seems most logical to you.

•   If you tend to think of a supplier by their name, list it that way with a cross-reference to its category. You might
enter Acme Party Supply under A, and also under P: “Party Supplies- see Acme”.  Think what a time saver well  organized phone numbers can be.  How many times have you taken 10, 15, or even 20 minutes looking for a specific phone number?  Guilty?  Yes we all are.  But here is you chance to improve you current system.

Below commit to a course of action regarding organizing your Community Contacts:  I plan to…

“But it might come in handy someday!”
The most difficult part of organizing space is deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. Agree?  The following three-question “to keep or not to keep” test will help clarify your thinking, especially if you like to hold onto "treasures" long after they are needed.
1.     Have I used this item in the last year? If the answer is yes, keep it. If the answer is no, go to question #2.
2.     Does this item have special meaning or value to me?  Sentimental and aesthetic values are perfectly legitimate reasons to keep the pot holder made by a favorite resident who has passed on, or photos of smiling residents to whom you have become attached. But if the answer is no, go to question #3.
3.      Might this item come in handy someday? Aha!  Here’s your Catch-22 - because there isn’t anything in the world that might not come in handy someday.  If your answers to questions 1 and 2 were no, that’s your cue to discard the item or give it away.  If you feel some items have some value, could you make an appointment with yourself to donate these items to the local thrift shop?

Keep this in Mind!!  Should the unlikely day ever come that you could have used that extra whatever-it-is, the benefit in freeing up the storage space in your Activity Room and creating a more professional image to other staff and departments as you implement Culture Change more than compensates for having to buy a new one.

Holding areas and other alternatives
When panic sets in at the thought of getting rid of some of these things you may need someday or feel attached to, below are five steps to make the discarding process easier:
1. Give yourself a transition period.
2. Put those items you know should go, but you can’t let go of, into a box, i.e. holding area.
3. Set a toss-out date for about three months from now.
4. Then, if you haven’t gone back to retrieve something from the box in that time, toss it.
5. Even better: If you can’t trust yourself, enlist the aid of another Activity Staff member.

Below commit to a course of action regarding the Three-Question “To Keep or not to Keep” Test or reading a “Holding Area”:  I plan to…

If you are not feeling highly motivated to implement any of the preceding ideas, think again!.  The Implementation of Culture Change requires cooperation from other departments.  You are requesting schedule changes, transporting, and doing activities.  In order to make these requests and provide training for other staff, the more professional and organized you present yourself, the more likely the other department heads, therapists, CNAs, etc. are to treat you with respect and take your Culture Change requests seriously.  Agree?  So I suggest you strongly consider rereading the preceding section more than once.  Sift through it to find the ideas you need to implement.

Forward to Section 16
Back to Instructor's Guide

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