When an elderly person and family look for an assisted living arrangement, they evaluate facilities based on many factors. The availability of a wide variety of activities is one of the things they often seek. Most assisted living and retirement facilities hire activities directors and activities assistants to coordinate and lead activities, helping residents stay happy and healthy.
The primary job responsibility of an activities assistant is to work with the activities director to plan and implement activity plans. You research suitable programs and help get residents involved. You may arrange for guest speakers or performers, plan parties or develop ongoing classes and groups for the residents. For example, you might lead a craft project, create a book discussion group or arrange for an exercise class. All the activities must be appropriate for group’s age and abilities. Activities assistants also complete some administrative duties, such as ordering supplies and creating newsletters or schedules.
Professional activities assistants in assisted living centers are generally trained in the specific cognitive and physical needs of the elderly population. You must be able to meet the needs of a diverse population, both in terms of interests and abilities. Activities assistants are also expected to be familiar with state and federal guidelines. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has specific reporting and documentation requirements for assisted living activities, and an activities assistant helps the director complete those requirements.
The average annual salary for an activities professional in a nursing home, as of 2008, was $23,100, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most activities assistants earn an hourly wage, and benefits vary according to the employer. If you earn a related degree or certification in the activities field, you could increase your hourly wage or receive a promotion to a more advanced position, such as activities director, and earn a higher salary.
Education and Credentialing
Depending on the facility’s policies, you may be able to work as an activities assistant with only a high school diploma. In most cases, though, you need to have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a related field, with coursework in psychology, sociology and social work and geriatric issues. To earn accreditation from the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals, the CMS-recognized credentialing organization for the field, you need to complete education requirements and work for a minimum of 2,000 hours in the field within the past five years.