Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dare to be Dairy-Free

Our Alzheimer's day care gets food delivered from a special nutrition program. We are not licensed to do any cooking and everyone receives the same food. Normally there is milk, a hot protein, some kind of starch, and either a salad or soup.

We appreciate the thought that goes into preparing the food, however, in certain cases, there are clients who does not eat something from the set menu. They can have a preference or may be allergic to the item (knowingly and unknowingly). One of our clients does not eat fish, another does not like chicken, and many are lactose-intolerant.

My concerns about the menu that it is often over-loaded with too much of one food group. We had an incident with one client this past week when the menu was cheese ravioli and caesar salad. You can probably guess that she cannot have dairy.

According to the Whole Foods website "Some people who avoid dairy are allergic to the dairy proteins themselves and must avoid all dairy products, including milk, cheese, butter, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, ice cream, whey, or casein. Others avoid dairy because they lack the enzyme lactase, which digests milk sugar, lactose."

Lucky for us, we knew about her condition beforehand by asking family members and the doctor about her allergies. While we have soy milk to substitute, our client was upset because we gave her spaghetti and other clients had ravioli. She was also upset because we could not give her the salad because the cheese was already mixed into the greens.

This is not a single incident. The menu rarely provides a vegetarian option. It is perhaps twice a month that we get something that is not meat or fish.

Here are the options I suggest if the food program does not provide a few alternative meals:

-Keep meat around to make a sandwich
-Have canned tuna or ravioli (vegetarian)
-Soy milk, juice and other alternatives to regular milk
-Have cookies to keep the clients happy

It is difficult to please every palate, especially sensitive tastes such as our clientele. Although giving them options is more work to the staff, giving them choices empower them and encourages them to eat. You have to like what you eat.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Combination with Staff Members and Participants in Activities: Best Match?

The Series: Elements of Planning and Coordinating Successful Activities
5. Combination with Staff Members and Participants in Activities: Best Match?

There are best matches between staff members and clients in regards to conducting activities. We are taking care of senior clients with memory impairments. However, before they are our clients at the Day Care Center, they are human beings who have emotions, unique personalities, values, and life philosophies. Also, before being activities specialists, we are human beings as well who are very different, were brought up uniquely, and have different culture, customs, and beliefs.

The suggestion regarding staffing for every activity at the center is that the team member should respect each team member’s perspectives. As the activities coordinator, the main role is to have a flexible leadership with a firm belief in the team. In another words, the matchmaker. If one of the team members can’t work well with other team members, then everything that we do at the center for our clients would be failed and lose the balance in the working relationship. Of course, we can hide this unbalanced and awkward relationship among the team on the surface in order to not to let our clients notice. However, surprisingly, our clients are very sensitive and aware of noticing what is going on around them.

Likely, our clients also have a unique dynamic and very different from one to another. Some don’t get along with each other at the same table; the others can be best friends each other. Interestingly, they can be argumentative and competitive. If we know that some of them have been having conflicts each other, we would try to separate them for peace and happiness for other clients.

It also is very interesting that some clients tend to attach to one staff but not to another. This reflection definitely tells us how important a combination with staff and clients is. This is the main reason why a combination with staff members and participants in activities should not be less regarded. The key to successful activities is to a balance and combination. Staff should respect each other in the team when we conduct activities as well as we should be careful to think how to place clients during activities.

We are all different but we are all human beings. It is the simplest thing to remember; however somehow it can be the hardest thing in the working environment to appreciate for.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

How to Deal with Death

I have not dealt with death on a personal level until my grandpa passed about when I started my second year of college. As a student, there is no 101 on how to handle loss of a loved one. My grandpa was a great man with many vices. He drank beer everyday, sometimes multiples cans are sitting empty on the table. He smoked so much to the point where every fingernail was discolored. Those were habits he picked up as a kid in Vietnam. Smoking and drinking is not such a big deal there as it is here in California. So when he died of cancer, no one was surprised. He still wanted to drink and smoke even when the doctor diagnosed him.

I did not deal with his death well. I was sleeping when I got the call very early in the morning and an hour distance away. I just laid there and cried. That was my grandpa.

In this field of work, I have dealt with many deaths, but it is different each time. The last time was a client of the center who was very frail and could not verbally communicate with us. When we heard of the news that she had passed, questions came up on how to tell other clients if they had asked why our client has not been coming to the center. In an effort to respect the privacy of our client and not to bring depression upon our clients, we were told if any clients had asked, she say the family decided not to come anymore.

My point is that when I interviewed and got the position, I was never told the proper procedures or process of dealing with it. I was not given a phone number to call if I was grieving. Furthermore, I had questions about communications with the clients' family. Should I send flowers? Could I attend the service? Would I be able to offer support outside of work hours? Was there ethical or legal boundaries?

Here is my suggestion. There should be a meeting for all staff so they can be on the same page about any questions they may have. I certainly did not have the answers and it seems there were too many different ones.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gifts from the Heart

As a policy, our center as well as the individuals are not allowed to accept money from clients or the families for personal gain. Therefore, if anyone wants to reward us for a good job with money, the amount will be delegated to our program costs and it is a nice tax write off.

What about if clients want to give money to another? This incident has happened quite often as clients interact with one another daily and friendship began to form. Money is exchanged especially on birthdays. A recent incident had the staff come up with creative ideas for goody bags. One of our clients' had a birthday within that week. She insisted that she give money to other clients because they were going to be there to celebrate with her, and she was also very appreciative. To acknowledge her effort but not to have her wallet go empty, we suggested she can make cupcakes, write thank you cards, or even bring the drinks.

Here are a few more ideas that can be gifts for guests at a party:

-If you have a garden, pick flowers and tie a bow around it.
-Fold origami
-Take pictures of the group and give it to them
-If you are a singer, sing them a song

If people are there to celebrate with you, it really does not matter what you give them because your presence is enough.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cooking with our Clients

Living in a city such as San Francisco, we are exposed to many cultures. Every nation has its own contributions and something as special as food should be shared amongst everyone.

On a recent trip to Ensenada, Mexico, I went on an excursion called "Taste of Mexico". This was a cooking course to learn what is popular in Mexican cuisine. One of the appetizers we learn to make was guacamole. At our center, we have made guacamole and salsa before, however, I learn that is is not hard to make it into a cooking class with our clients.

Here is the list of ingredients:

garlic salt
jalapeno (optional)

That is a simple list, but of course you can fine tune it anyway you like. Make sure you also have a cutting board and a knife (plastic can be okay).

The easiest thing is just to put all the ingredients together, one at a time. While you teaching the steps, give them a little history about Mexico and how independence day in Mexico is not celebrated on Cinco De Mayo.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween at the Center

Halloween may appear to be a celebration for the young, but it is much more than that at our center. Beginning with the month of October, we decorate the center with lots of colored pumpkins, real pumpkins and the aroma of pumpkin pie. In addition to the orange-colored fruit, we also put up posters and hangings of witches, ghosts, and anything we relate to Halloween.

There are numerous activities one can plan for a group. To encourage cognitive activity, our center does a word game with "Halloween". To play this game, we give everyone a copy of the word, then have our clients find words that are three letters or more from one word. You may be surprise at how many words a client can come up with. For Columbus Day, we came up with over 120 words. Another activity using their senses, they can watch a pumpkin carving. We ask clients to draw a face on the pumpkin, and the staff will carve it for safety reasons. Next, we will have our clients take out the seeds, wash them, and roast them in the oven with a little salt. Another idea just for fun is the Halloween Party. Encourage your clients to dress up. Provide them with hats, capes, masks, or jewelry. Another way to involve clients is to ask them what kind of food and beverages they will like to have at the party.

Happy Halloween and be safe!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Productivity or Product of Waste?

Part of our assignments is to develop daily activities where we think will be appropriate for our clients. The conflict arises when the person you present it to is not necessarily as enthusiastic about your idea as you may be.

Today, I would like to talk about disappointments one might face at their place of employment. When a job requires creativity, innovation, and dedication, just how much worth can be measured for each factor? The problem I ran appears to be the generational gap. Age has nothing to do with mentality but I will discuss why that is an issue at work. When a co-worker who is very old-fashioned and set in their ways, novel ideas for music, movies, and activities are often restricted or prohibited to be implemented. As much as we adore Elvis and the Beatles, there is room for musical artists who made music since the 50s. When I tried to introduce a mixed CD with Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, the music was immediately turned off. None of the clients made a comment that the songs were offensive.

Some of our art ideas come from the internet. Apparently, it is too complicated. Anything beyond coloring and cutting has to be altered. So I ask myself, if I am spending time to do research, am I being productive for coming up with new ideas or is it a waste of my time to prepare activities when it will not be on the calendar?