Director of Programs & Support Services
APANS Health Service
Welbi Heroes highlights the unsung heroes of senior living communities, recreation professionals, and shares their stories, lessons learned, and insights into their success.
This month, Rebekah Jakimczuk, Director of Programs and Services at Middlesex Terrace, shares how she plans her activity calendar to keep residents engaged and boost program attendance.
Rebekah has worked at Middlesex Terrace, an APANS Health Service long-term care community in Delaware, Ontario, for fourteen years. She began her career as a recreation aide and became the full-time Director of Programs and Services after filling in for a manager who was on maternity leave. Rebekah has held her management position for a total of three years.
Rebekah was drawn to a career in recreation when she discovered the recreation and leisure program in a college booklet shortly after she graduated high school. Her mother, a PSW, encouraged her to pursue the degree, but Rebekah wasn’t so sure she would enjoy working with seniors. But after completing the first year of her program and a summer placement, Rebekah knew she had made the right decision.
“I was a summer student at Craigwell Gardens in Ailsa Craig. That was a great opportunity because I got to experience working at the adult day program and in long-term care,” she shares.
“After that, I realized that I absolutely adore working with seniors! It was a great fit for me.”
For Rebekah, the most rewarding part of her career is building relationships with residents, getting to know them, and meeting their needs through the recreation program. When Rebekah is planning the community’s recreation calendar, she strives to include activities for all the dimensions of wellness every day to ensure her residents’ needs are met. She takes inspiration for activities from other senior living communities, national holiday calendars, Welbi’s program ideas, and feedback and suggestions from residents.
One of Rebekah’s favourite kinds of programs to facilitate are those that are resident-led. These programs allow residents to pursue what they find meaningful and to share their passion with others. For example, one of Rebekah’s residents frequently volunteered at a big-sister program before she moved to Middlesex Terrace. Now, when the community wants to hold a fundraiser, this resident is always on the front lines helping to organize the event.
“Having residents run the programs is a huge benefit to them,” Rebekah says. “It enhances their lives and it enhances the home by making it more of a community.”
Rebekah shares that one of her greatest challenges as Director over the last few years has been how to approach activity planning during COVID-19 lockdowns. Keeping covid out of the community is key, but she also wanted to maintain a high quality of life for her residents. To keep residents engaged, the activity team went door-to-door with a cart full of activities. The team also combatted feelings of isolation by helping residents keep in contact with friends and family through video calls.
“During the last lockdown, we had a group of residents who were really close friends with each other, so I would do FaceTime with them. It meant so much to them,” Rebekah shares.
As Director of Programs and Services, Rebekah’s major focus is on resident engagement. Her goal is to boost program attendance and to ensure that all of her residents are included in the activities. To accomplish this goal, she asks her staff to invite residents to programs. If a resident frequently declines to attend activities, that tells Rebekah that she and her team need to adjust their program offerings.
Rebekah also uses Welbi to monitor resident engagement. The platform flags residents who may be at risk of isolation. She prints Welbi’s list of residents in need of engagement and gives it to her staff so they can ensure they’re meeting the needs of all of their residents.
To boost program attendance, Rebekah says that promotion is key. Each day, she hosts the community’s Morning Show, where she announces which activities will be running. The Morning Show also doubles as an activity because Rebekah has a resident co-host.
“One of our residents helps me with the announcements. It’s his morning job, and he absolutely adores it. It means the world to him,” Rebekah says. Thanks to her resident’s enthusiasm, her days at Middlesex Terrace always start off bright.
At Welbi, we’re inspired every day by recreation professionals like Rebekah who go above and beyond to engage their residents. Thank you all for the remarkable work that you do! Recreation professionals play an incredibly important role in senior living communities keeping older adults safe, healthy, and living life to the fullest. Your hard work deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated.
If you’d like to read more stories from exceptional professionals like Rebekah, sign up for the Welbi recreation newsletter - a monthly digest for senior living professionals with inspiring stories, activity ideas, and tips and tricks delivered straight to your email inbox.
Want to get articles like this one fresh in your inbox when they’re published? Sign up for our newsletter and join the Welbi Family today.
Join our mailing list to get our latest newsletters straight in your inbox.