In the United States today, there are more than 30,000 assisted living (AL) communities providing approximately 1,000,000 licensed beds across the country. These communities offer residents a variety of services, like housekeeping and maintenance, meals and dining services, transportation and more in a safe, secure environment.
To recognize the importance of the role of assisted living in the continuum of care for seniors and individuals with disabilities, the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) established National Assisted Living Week® (NALW) in 1995. Since its inception, NALW has provided a unique opportunity for assisted living centers to celebrate with their residents, family, staff, volunteers and their local communities. This annual observance also acts as an opportunity to educate the public about this specific sector of long term care.
Each year, NCAL announces a specific theme for NALW and assisted living communities across the country are invited, and encouraged, to plan activities for that week that not only play into the theme, but that also celebrate AL residents and staff and the wonderful things happening within the communities every day.
The theme for NALW 2017 was Family is Forever. It was inspired by a quote from Maya Angelou: “Family isn’t always blood, it’s the people in your life who want you in theirs: the ones who accept you for who you are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.” Facilities were encouraged to plan activities that paid homage to the deep connections that form between residents and staff.
For some, it’s traditional events like family picnics, movie nights and ice cream socials; for others it’s new ideas each year—sports day, family game night or special family council meetings. Regardless NALW is an opportunity to go the extra mile to do something special for community residents and their loved ones and to show appreciation for the staff who care for them.
“We participate every year,” said Amy Conner, director of Courtyard Estates of Bushnell, a 40-bed assisted living center in Bushnell, IL. “We always kick of NALW with a family picnic on Grandparents Day to celebrate our tenants and their families. The best part of the week or any day is hearing the laughter and conversations amongst the tenants, staff, families and visitors. This year’s theme was Family is Forever. We had a lot of discussions about family traditions, recipes and sharing family photos. We learned so many new things about our tenants that help us know them even better.”
“We did a different activity every day,” explained Laura Baisley, director of Arden Courts of Glen Ellyn, a 60-bed AL center located in the suburbs of Chicago that focuses on memory care. NALW wasn’t typically celebrated at the center before Baisley joined the staff earlier this year, but she felt it was an important tradition to start.
“I think it’s important because I think we need the acknowledgement. The staff here do a wonderful job. We are creating a home for people and that takes a special person who can be warm and caring and add a sense of quality to our residents’ lives, and I think that should be recognized by everyone. Plus,” she added, “I like doing it because it also impacts the residents in the sense that they are able to have fun and see a different side of their caregivers, and it really does create a sense of family and improves the quality of everyone’s life.”
For more information about National Assisted Living Week, visit www.ahcancal.org/ncal/events/nalw
By Ashley Caldwell, MA