Dr. El's Theory of Angry Activities

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Dr. El
Dr. El

“Scream as loud as you can,” I encouraged my companions before we plunged down the waterslide in our rubber raft at the water park on Independence Day. “There aren't enough opportunities for yelling in everyday life. Let's make the most of it while it's socially acceptable.” The shouts of our foursome pierced the air as we flew down the steep slopes and then dissolved into laughter as we splashed to a halt at the bottom of the ride. “That was great!” we all agreed.

Our residents tend to be stressed out. At a minimum, they've suffered debilitating and often sudden physical losses, they're living 24/7 in a communal environment and they have to rely for assistance on helpers they're sharing with other people. Add to this unfamiliar food, financial stressors, physical separation from their homes and family and worries about the future.

Is there any one of us who wouldn't be angry about something in that situation? Yet we as organizations strive to have units filled with residents without “behaviors.”

I'm not suggesting nightly “primal scream” sessions, but we could add into the rotation some activities where residents get to be “bad,” or at least aren't expected to be so darn good all the time.

For example, I used to counsel a 100-year old woman, Claire, whose active life had slowed to a crawl due to age, arthritis and other maladies. She often let out her frustrations by making sarcastic comments to her aides and other residents, which led to conflicts.

To help her blow off steam, as we talked, we slowly set up dominoes in a circuitous row on a table. When the domino chain was completed, I'd give her the signal and she'd gently push the first domino over with one arthritic finger and watch with glee as the whole chain loudly self-destructed. On some days, Claire was particularly “bad” and didn't wait for the signal. This activity allowed her to be “good” bad and her sarcasm diminished.

There are many opportunities for groups of residents to let out their anger in healthy ways, including watermelon seed-spitting contests, water balloon tosses (not necessarily at each other, though that could be fun with the right group) and voting for winners of various contests by asking residents to “make a lot of noise” in whatever way they're able.

The point is to offer a lighthearted pursuit that provides the opportunity for residents to engage in frustration-releasing activities that would be considered socially unacceptable under normal circumstances.

Residents aren't the only ones who are expected to behave well even when annoyed. Try adding some devilish diversions to your next staff party or arrange for a group rate for employees at a local amusement park.

Then scream your way down the rollercoaster toward staff unity.

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Ph.D., author of The Savvy Resident's Guide, is an Award of Excellence winner in the Blog Content category of the APEX Awards for Publication Excellence program. She also is the Gold Medalist in the Blog-How To/Tips/Service category of the American Society of Business Publication Editors Midwest Regional competition. A speaker and consultant with over 20 years of experience as a psychologist in long-term care, she maintains her own award-winning website at MyBetterNursingHome.com.

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