The Enricher-In-Chief

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When it comes to activities at Lieberman Center for Health and Rehabilitation (LCHR), Jami Mandl, Manager of Life Enrichment Services (LES), gets involved in everything–from developing the monthly activity calendars, to planning the movie lineup, to designing flyers that invite residents to events. Her mission is to keep residents happy, busy and engaged.

When asked to comment about Al’s Variety Show (page 6), she says, “Yes, the residents love that group. I’ve attended it myself and it is great, with interviews and everything.” She was also the one who recognized the unique talent of Nancy Weinberg, a lifelong painter living at LCHR, who is featured on pages eight and nine. She is always promoting the creative and tenacious undertakings of the residents. Mandl has been at Lieberman Center since March 2018, exactly 25 years from when she started her career in senior care at Lieberman as an Activity Aide. Mandl’s LES staff includes a dedicated Certified Art Therapist, Melissa Miller, and an enthusiastic Activity Coordinator, Wanda Turner, who’s been at Lieberman for more than 24 years.

Mandl acknowledges that the needs of Lieberman residents are quite diverse and evolving, so she makes sure that each resident has something to participate in. “I’m really trying to focus on each person as an individual and learn and test the activities that will benefit them most. So, my goal is to have some very person-centered care plans and make sure that we’re addressing the things that give meaning to our residents.”

She now provides a calendar of activities for each floor. “This will help family members and loved ones know what’s going on and they can come by and participate with the resident,” she says. Mandl, who is trained as a Certified Activity Director and a Certified Dementia Practitioner, adds: “Now that I’m creating an Activity Calendar for the fifth floor, which is designated as the Dementia Special Care Unit, I’ll be incorporating some additional dementia training with the LES staff, which can only bring positive results.” She can use her experience throughout the building because there are residents on every floor with varying degrees of memory loss.

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She is eager to take on the big task of providing and developing programs that take into consideration each person and their talents, interests and capabilities. This is something that is not easily done across the board in short- and long-term care. She clarifies, “We’re not going to have one specific activity for one person. We will blend the interests of people who have similar likes and dislikes and create interest groups and activities that we know people want.” Mandl mentions the huge Poker Club that exists at LCHR. “We actually had to bring in an extra volunteer for poker. Popular activities like this grow because residents tell each other about something, and they get their friends involved. In fact a few poker players taught each other how to play, and it has just grown and grown.”

When asked the most popular activity of residents, she cracks a big smile and says, “There’s always BINGO. It is still a crowd-pleaser and quite popular.” But Mandl points out that the tide is shifting, and a new generation of older adults with “younger” interests is coming to LCHR for skilled nursing.

Mandl meets with LCHR staff every week: “We go over what’s happening on each floor, and determine if staff needs to be trained on proper approaches such as how to encourage people to become involved and how not to. This gets away from the old idea of what activities are. Staff is really aware and mindful of the time they spend with the residents.”

This is crucial, especially in a clinical environment where skilled nursing is offered in short- and long-term care. Mandl speaks especially of LCHR’s Rehabilitation and Therapy services on the second floor: “A lot of the interactions that staff and residents have are purely clinical, so it’s really nice to have somebody touch you on the arm in a gentle way, as opposed to being stuck with a needle.”

Her goal is to get more people at LCHR active and involved. “Once the staff was given the tools they needed, they just ran with it. The names that we are using for our programs are changing a little bit to make them more inviting. Rather than listing an activity like ‘Word Games,’ we try to indicate what kind of word game. Employees can elaborate on the description when they’re talking to the residents, and that can tie into their specific Care Plan. It allows residents to prepare for the activity. For example, when we’re doing a word game, we tell them if it will be a word search or a crossword puzzle. This gives them the freedom to participate in their favorite game… or not if they don’t like what’s offered. It’s their choice. I think that by enhancing descriptions and making things more inviting, we have helped increase participation.”

Mandl continues: “I think it’s all about communications and that staff should constantly carry schedules so they know what’s going on. Signs in the elevators are very good visual cues, whether it’s for talking points during tours or other purposes. The bulletin boards have been used a lot. This is where we can post the daily event schedule for the seventh and sixth floors. She also puts schedules on the front desk for residents and family members. We want people to feel welcomed. It can be awkward visiting somebody because you don’t know what to talk about. Or if someone is non-verbal or hearing-impaired, it can be a very difficult to visit.”

She speaks of her challenges, which are pretty common in every community. “Staffing is something that we’re addressing with our job fairs. We are also seeing increasingly younger residents. That makes it even more difficult to meet everyone’s needs. Most of our residents are from The Greatest Generation—people in their 90s—who grew up without computers and the music they listen to could be Big Band. We always show a lot of vintage and classic movies.”

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But Mandl is forward-thinking and is preparing for LCHR’s future when residents may be a little younger, representing the Boomer generation. In response, programming will most likely become more wellness-focused with a holistic approach to care in general. The Baby Boomers will be more interested in culture, will keep a pulse on current news and most probably be politically and socially active. They have been using computers for years and will have a good idea of what they can do with them.

“We will want to meet their needs and plan activities that will appeal to them. Their classic movies may be a bit different and may include “The Big Chill” or “Die Hard,” but overall our mission will be the same… to ensure that residents at Lieberman have the opportunity to engage in meaningful, fun and thought-provoking activities that enhance the quality of their lives.”

From art shows to classes to exercise to movies and more, Lieberman Center has a full schedule of interesting and enriching activities that help our residents stay engaged and active. For more information about LCHR go to 847.929.3320. For some examples of our many healthy and fun activities on our calendar, go to: cje.net/life-enrichment/special-events.