LEA discusses strengths needed when leading programming for residents with cognitive impairment

‘You have to adapt to the environment, the situation and the behaviour at the moment’

Forest Hill life enrichment aide (LEA) Shannon Lynch says leading programming with residents who have cognitive impairment requires team members to focus on preventing responsive behaviours while being a multitasker who is caring for each resident’s needs.

Shannon, who works full time on the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home’s first and second floors, says she works with residents ranging in age from 57 to over 100. With such a vast range of ages, there are equally vast abilities and interests, she says.

“As a home, we have to adapt to residents,” Shannon tells The OMNIway. “We have residents who are in their 50s and residents who are over 100. Their lifestyles are totally different.

“You have to adapt to the environment, the situation and the behaviour at the moment,” she says. “My thinking is that we are preventing behaviours (and) preventing falls.”

This is where it helps to be a good multitasker.

Shannon will oftentimes run two or more programs simultaneously. For example, on Fridays she hosts a happy hour. But at the same time, she will lead a trivia program that has proven to be effective at helping residents with cognitive impairment.

“When they are in the programming, they are happy and engaged and they’re getting some joy out of it,” she says.

“While that’s going on, there is a gentleman who loves to play the harmonica. Once I have everybody’s drinks and snacks (for happy hour) and have put out the trivia questions, I will ask the resident to play a song on his harmonica – and that brings him so much joy to play for everybody.”

There is another resident who Shannon will ask to fold hand towels.

“I will ask her to fold hand towels for my children – and I tell her that my children will really appreciate it if she does that for them, and she gets a lot of joy out of that,” Shannon says.

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