Life Care Center of the Willows in Valparaiso Indiana focuses on in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation for those who need it. But aside from providing medical care for a variety of conditions, the staff at The Willows spends a tremendous amount of time and energy providing quality recreational activities for residents.
Activity Director, Toby Stigdon, has been at The Willows for a little over a year. On average, he oversees six to eight different activities a day, ensuring that there is something for everyone to enjoy. Stigdon’s job involves planning and leading the leisure programs for residents as well as assessing the attendance and effectiveness of the events. In 2014 Stigdon was recognized as Employee of the Year at The Willows so you know he has passion for his work.
“It’s about having fun,” Stigdon said. “They usually like everything we do. We have a lot planned to keep them busy.”
The Willows has a mechanism for feedback called the Resident Council in which the residents themselves are vocal about which programs they enjoy. Stigdon’s programming revolves around a desire to include all residents in recreational programming.
“It’s all about modifying activities to keep everyone engaged,” Stigdon explained.
During any given week at The Willows, there are usually a few high-functioning activities such as shopping trips in in town, going to the movies, or seeing a play at the Memorial Opera House. In the near future, one resident will be driven to a studio for his own weekly radio show.
Some modified activities at the center include ball tosses, balloon tosses, and physical tasks/chores such as folding laundry. “Low-functioning” activities are based upon sensory experiences such as hand massages.
Life Care of the Willows also has outside entertainment come in for residents. Musicians such as J.J. Brooks lift spirits with music ranging from rock and roll to old church songs to country. Every week, a group of high-school age Boy Scouts comes in to the center to lead bingo.
Nursing Home Week is a time of year that the staff at The Willows allows the residents to have fun by putting a pie in Stigdon’s face.
“At first, nobody wants to. They all feel too bad,” he said, laughing. “But by the end, everyone is lining up to do it!”
Residents have also had a chance to plunge staff in water with a dunk tank such as the one they had last July. Other out-of-the-ordinary events include a “weird food” day in which residents have the opportunity to expand their palette to new tastes such as sushi.
Whatever the activity and whenever it falls on the calendar, residents are grateful to have avenues for quality entertainment and leisure. For Stigdon, the activities go beyond just having fun – there is the opportunity for creating meaning and memories for the residents.
“Yes, we want to have fun but we want to have it be meaningful for them. And also give a sense of purpose… That’s what we’re in the business of,” Stigdon said.