While some long-term care providers may have dabbled with a key event here or there, leaders at Alden Estates of Shorewood, IL, made sure no part of their National Skilled Nursing Care Week schedule was unfilled.

Over the course of the week, the community held a variety of activities, ranging from the opening “Harry Potter Day” to a closing “BEE Kind” day.

“We tried to do as much as we could during COVID-19. (But) we couldn’t have entertainers come in and we couldn’t really have the social gatherings as we used to, but we still made sure that we celebrated it,” said Alden Estates Administrator Stephanie Mussman. “Just the sense of normalcy that we were able to kind of partake in together was nice to see.”

She certainly made the most of this year’s celebration. After Monday’s “Harry Potter Day” complete with a magician, Tuesday was “Red, White and Blue Day” with patriotic crafts and bingo. Wednesday was “Luau Day” with Hawaiian attire and hula dancers, while Thursday was “Disney Day” with trivia and a visit from Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Keeping with the theme of “cultivating kindness,” the week culminated with “‘BEE’ Kind Day” where residents exchanged homemade treats and got their faces sketched by a caricature artist. Residents participated in everything with glee and enthusiasm — even the more hesitant ones according to Mussman.

“[One of our residents] became very uncomfortable with being isolated. They wouldn’t come down for the activities and my activity director was trying new things and they still weren’t coming down,” said Mussman. “[After] seeing the interaction and participation we got from those residents, we’re going to continue doing fun things like this a couple times a month, couple times a week, whatever it takes because it really makes a difference and you can tell that their morale and spirit was different. You can come here and have dinner, just get your medication and do therapy in the gym but it’s that social aspect that I think really plays a huge part in their journey with us.”

Given the employee recruitment issues facing the long-term care industry, Mussman wanted to make sure that staff also had an opportunity to loosen up a bit and have some fun with the residents.

“There’s some studies out there that we lost 12% to 14% of our workforce during COVID-19 and they’re not coming back as quickly as we anticipated,” she explained. “We’re trying to find different ways to appreciate and recognize staff so that we keep the people we have and they’re happy doing what they’re doing while feeling like part of a bigger community.”

The annual National Skilled Nursing Week 2023 began on Mother’s Day on May 14 and ran through May 20 to honor skilled nursing staff across the nation. The celebration was established 56 years ago.