Operations Best Practices

Making the Case for Recreation — How APANS is Addressing the Staff Shortage Crisis in LTC

February 8, 2022

How is your community responding to the industry-wide staffing shortage facing long-term care?

At APANS Health Services, Joe Anne Holloway (VP of Quality and Strategic Direction) and Laura Scott (VP of Best Practice and Innovation) are tackling this pressing challenge by focusing leadership on the value of recreation and investing in better documentation.

In an interview with Welbi head of marketing Terrence Wang, Joe Anne and Laura share the strategies they’ve used at APANS to continue providing quality resident experiences during the recreation staff shortage. 

The Importance of Recreation in Long-Term Care

When most people think of long-term care, they’re not picturing active older adults. Instead, what comes to mind is sedentary residents supported by nurses, physiotherapists, and other health care practitioners. With the health sector undergoing its own staffing shortage, it would seem like LTC operators should prioritize hiring health care workers and leave recreation on the backburner.

Once, this might have been the case. But in Joe Anne’s thirty-three years of industry experience, she’s seen a shift in the way that LTC views recreation.

“Back in the eighties and nineties, we were looking at recreation to address social isolation,” she explains. “Now, it’s gone to recreation for therapeutic intervention. We’re interested in measuring the therapeutic outcomes of our programming. That is a huge positive.”

The residents at APANS’ five LTC homes have a diverse range of complex medical and non-medical needs. Programming is designed to address these needs, particularly for residents with a limited ability to self-recreate. 

Industry leaders like APANS recognize that recreation isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s an essential part of health and wellbeing, especially for residents in long-term care. But what does this perspective look like in practice?

“It’s ingrained in our culture,” says Laura. “All silos are equal and equally powered in our organization. The investment, the time, and the energy is equal from our restorative department to our program department, from dietary to nursing.” 

“If anything,” Joe Anne adds, “We put more pressure on the fact that we believe that nursing is expected. It’s the recreation, the food, the interactions, and the socialization that really make a difference in the quality of life.” 

A Leadership Team All-In On Recreation

Even amid staffing shortages, APANS continues to meet the high standard of care they set for themselves. Though the Ministry of Long-Term Care sets minimum recreation requirements, APANS is committed to raising the bar by offering a full program schedule, seven days a week. How has a recreation-first mindset helped them accomplish this?

“We are fortunate that our CEO is just so pro-recreation that we have staffed up in programming,” Joe Anne says. “That’s something that I don’t always see. In some organizations, they simply wouldn’t have the hands to do the level of programming that we are seeing in our homes.” 

When leaders recognize the value of recreation, they’ll ensure their teams get the right support. But too often, the contribution that recreation professionals make in the lives of their residents goes overlooked. How can recreation professionals advocate for themselves when leadership isn’t convinced of their importance?

“Hold true to your values, and hold true to what you want to see for your residents. Be very vocal,” Joe Anne recommends.
“Lobby and reach out to other homes and organizations that have already hit that target, talk to them, and find out how they’ve done it,” Laura adds. “But I really do believe it starts right at the top once owners, CEOs, and leadership teams take that stance of equality across the sectors.”

The Value of Investing in Recreation Documentation

Even for communities with enough hands, the COVID-19 pandemic has left everyone feeling underpowered and under-resourced. Laura and Joe Anne can’t remember a busier time the industry has seen in the last fifteen years. 

Because of the strain of the pandemic, they saw a need to innovate their practices in the often overlooked area of recreation documentation. LTC communities typically invest in health care and culinary documentation for compliance purposes, but may not see the value of investing in recreation. Of course, APANS does things differently.

The simple need for a better attendance system is what drew Laura and Joe Anne to Welbi. 

The platform’s EHR integration ensured that making the switch from PointClickCare took minimal time and effort.

“We’ve implemented and partnered with a lot of different companies, and I have to say Welbi was easily in the top three for onboarding,” says Laura. 
“Very professional, efficient, and comprehensive. We were very impressed” Joe Anne adds.

APANS implemented Welbi to support their recreation teams with an efficient attendance program. But now, Laura and Joe Anne are discovering what the platform’s time-saving capabilities have to offer them as operators.

“The documentation platform is so user-friendly,” Laura shares. “It used to take us hours and hours and hours to get certain reports. Now, the Director of Programming and Support Services is able to get a snapshot of what residents are participating in, what staff are facilitating, and who’s needing what. We can identify that through the way Welbi is set up.”

And how is this information helping APANS meet and exceed ministry requirements? 

“Now, we can start to pull the data from the program and cross-reference between chains,” Joe Anne explains. “We’ve got 5 homes, so we can do best-practice against our own chain, which is really good. With Welbi, all I have to do without even coming into the homes is pull a report on what programs happened in each home and compare. I think the sky’s the limit on what we can do with that information.” 

Welbi is helping APANS measure the result of their programming so they can improve life for their residents and continue to lead the pack in LTC.

“Welbi is the recreation, documentation, and attendance platform that we’d been looking for,” says Joe Anne.

Want to learn more about staff shortages in LTC? Check out our blogs 3 Ways Top Communities Are Addressing Staff Shortages in Long Term Care and Top 3 Causes of High Turnover in Long Term Care Communities.

Katie Stewart

Katie is a member of Welbi’s Customer Experience team! She has a background in communications and recreation and is passionate about older adults, exercise, coffee and people.

Holly Mathias

Holly is a member of Welbi’s Marketing team! She has a background in communications and marketing, and is a compassionate individual who loves team work, story telling, and wellness.

Wendy Riopelle

Wendy is a student in the Honours BA in English program at the University of Ottawa, where she has won numerous awards for her writing.

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