Dudley keeps residents engaged at MNRC

Heather Dudley, activities director at MNRC, instructs residents during a snowman painting class last week. Dudley organizes all of the activities held at MNRC each month. She meets with each resident on a regular basis to make sure they’re staying engaged as well. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

MNRC residents Delores Neal and David Cavey work hard at their winter snowman painting.
KIm Brooks
Express Editor

     National Activity Professionals Week is Jan. 22-28. Heather Dudley, the activities director at Monticello Nursing and Rehabilitation Campus, stays busy planning and organizing the many events and activities that take place throughout the center.

     Dudley has been with MNRC for almost two years now, saying the time has gone by fast. She works with the 70-plus residents at the nursing home, planning small- and large-group activities.

     “Seeing them smile and enjoying their time makes my day go by faster,” said Dudley.

     Some of the many activities that take place at MNRC include: Bingo, spa day, arts and crafts, music, adult coloring, chair exercises, puzzles, checkers, and holiday events like the crowning of the Valentine’s Day royalty, the Snowflake Ball, and touring the city at Christmas time to see all of the decorated homes.

     Dudley works with large groups of residents, as many as 30; as well as small groups and one-on-one assistance with a resident.

     Aside from just the planning aspect, Dudley also puts together a monthly calendar of events for each resident, and a newsletter for the families. Her goal is to have three activities/events a day. Dudley is assisted in her role by Donna Paulson and Evalena Lang.

     “Without their help, we would not be able to do everything we do here,” praised Dudley.

     She meets with each resident on a daily basis to chart his/her activities that day and to see what they liked or didn’t enjoy about a particular activity. Every week, Dudley visits with the residents’ families to keep them abreast of what their loved one is doing to keep busy and occupied.

     “We go over their activity goals and assessments,” explained Dudley.

     She spends time with the new admissions to the nursing home as well, seeing where their interests lie.

     “I just want to get to know them better,” she said.

     MNRC also partners with local entities such as Above & Beyond for such activities as coloring and exercises.

     “We always have to keep in mind what the residents’ capabilities are,” explained Dudley, “what they can/cannot do.”

     She said the best part of the job is getting to know each resident and show him/her something new. Dudley admitted she, herself, learns a thing or two from the residents as well.

     “They share their life stories,” she said.

     With a variety of things going on at the MNRC, Dudley said she has seen more and more residents taking part in all that the campus has to offer.

     “They get more comfortable with the activity and became regulars,” she said. “It feels like home for them.”

     Aside from indoor activities, MNRC also offers outdoor activities such as gardening in the raised beds. Dudley said her goal is to expand the raised garden bed area. The annual bake sale at MNRC helps cover the cost of flowers and produce that are planted. The fresh produce is then used in the kitchen at the center.

     Dudley said the activities offered not only provide residents with ways to use their hands, but to use their minds as well. It is also a social time for so many.

     “It’s physical and mental exercise and social,” she said. “That’s the key to life. The whole point is to improve their quality of life here.”

     One new activity Dudley is starting is music therapy with those residents who are in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. This involves one-on-one or small group therapy sessions where someone plays a musical instrument or sings. Dudley said she finds that the residents start singing along because they recognize the song or tap their foot to the beat of the music.

     She also implemented night events before the supper hour, keeping the residents engaged as they wait to eat.

     Dudley graduated in 2014 from the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in family services and minor in gerontology.

     “I always knew I wanted to do something with older adults,” she said.


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