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What does a Nursing Home Activity Director do?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

A nursing home activity director is in charge of the planning and implementation of activities engaged in by residents of nursing homes. She normally is expected to arrange interesting and diverse programs, outings, and experiences that may take place on the premises or require travel to a local venue.

A person in this position is often required to be organized but flexible. Residents’ needs are diverse, and they can require physical as well as psychological encouragement to participate in activities. The ability to simultaneously be compassionate and maintain control of the situation at hand is a very desirable trait for an activity director.

As the activity director plans the monthly calendar of activities, the wants and needs of the residents should be her main concern. This requires outstanding and ongoing communications with all the residents. As often as possible, the activities should reflect a wide range of the residents’ interests while also providing physical and mental stimulation.

Having genuine enthusiasm and a sincere interest in the senior population is imperative to being successful in this position. An upbeat and energetic personality, coupled with a lust for life and a creative mind, helps make the activities fun for all. The nursing home activity director who can enhance the residents’ lives and encourage them to be vital parts of the community will have a fulfilling career.

While organizing activities and entertainment, the director should strive to incorporate appropriate physical exercise into the programs. Promoting social interaction and encouraging cognitive processes are also important to seniors. The activity director is typically expected to plan activities that do not exclude any residents based on mental or physical limitations.

This job often requires supervising activity facilitators and other support personnel. These employees regularly assist in implementing programs and regularly go on the outings. When the director is compiling her assessments of the residents’ physical or mental conditions, she regularly asks the staff for their observations and points of view.

When she is not interacting with residents, the activity director is required to maintain books and records. In addition to writing resident assessments, she reviews each nursing home resident’s goals and notes what changes she feels would be beneficial to each person. These reports are often reviewed by residents’ families and physicians.

Qualified applicants for this position will have a minimum of one year’s experience in a supervisory capacity, preferably in an eldercare environment. Good oral and written communication skills are given considerable preference, and a familiarity with computer operations is desirable. Partiality is commonly given to applicants who have bachelor’s or master’s degrees in social sciences, particularly gerontology.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon994154 — On Jan 19, 2016

If I want to be an activity director at a retirement home, and work with residents of dementia, what kind of college requirements would I need in order to apply for that job?

By anon305807 — On Nov 27, 2012

How does one gain the experience needed if they are right out of college? I want to do this, but I have no experience besides volunteering at a retirement community a few hours a week.

By Moldova — On Aug 26, 2010

Crispety-Another thing that I wanted to mention is that not all skilled nursing homes accept dementia patients.

In some nursing homes, if the patient is already diagnosed with dementia then they may not accept the patient. However, is the patient gets admitted and does not have dementia at the time of the admission, but later developed the condition in the nursing home, the nursing home will make modifications for that individual.

I know that when my dad was in a nursing home they offered a nursing home activity calendar in order to list all of the activities that were going on.

They had bingo, arts and crafts and even domino games. They also had weekly mass on Sunday, at the center. A local priest would come and perform the church ceremony. The assisted living activity calendar even listed birthday parties.

By Crispety — On Aug 26, 2010

Sunny27- I can answer that for you. Special care is taken for dementia residents. Often the activity director will ask the family of the patient to bring in a photo album, or some meaningful items that can help piece together the person's life.

This can be put in some kind of box which can store special memories for the patient. The family member can also help the activities director as well as the dementia patient by reminding them of some of the memories of the past.

In addition the activities director can also create various sections for the dementia patients. She can have one section that is devoted to reading, another section that allows the patients to experience various textures, and a third section that offers soft music for relaxation.

The more advanced stages of dementia would probably require more of the sensory projects which are what they would generally enjoy.

The important thing when planning activities for dementia clients is that patient should enjoy them, which is still possible even though their memory is fading.

By Sunny27 — On Aug 26, 2010

asis11- What about dementia activity? What kind of activities for dementia residents are there?

By oasis11 — On Aug 26, 2010

A nursing home activity director plans social events for the residents both on-site and off.

This position also requires certification when the center receives funds from Medicare and Medicaid.

One of the conditions for receiving funds from Medicare Medicaid is that the activities director becomes certified. The NCCAP or the National Council of Certified Activities Professionals is the certifying body for activities directors.

They have several requirements in order to gain a nursing home activity director certification. First, they should have a four year degree with specific coursework in a nursing home activity.

In addition, they need to complete 4,000 hours of hands-on experience within the last five years. They also must complete an additional 30 hours of continuing educational training, and pass the Modular Education Program for Activity Professionals.

This is also known as the MEPAP exam.

If the activities director does not have a four year degree, an associate's degree will be acceptable but they must have at least 6,000 hours of experience within the last five years, and take on 30 hours of continuing education courses along with passing the MEPAP exam.

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