A Day in the Life of a Life Enrichment Manager

, Sunrise VP of Memory Care Services  |  March 13, 2012

Celebrating the joy of every day is an important part of the Sunrise Signature Experience. Thousands of dedicated team members work each day to make sure every resident at Sunrise experiences joy, purpose, and hope. For our residents with memory loss, our Life Enrichment Managers (LEMs) help adapt activities based on each individual’s unique life story, skills and interests in a way that enriches their mind, body and spirit.

Sunrise’s Life Enrichment Managers are dedicated to involving residents with memory loss in daily activities that help them feel valued and provide them with a sense of purpose. Daily activities are specifically identified to nurture the spirit of residents by providing life skills, which are familiar tasks that residents enjoyed doing in the past that still bring them a sense of accomplishment in the present.

Many LEMs begin their day in the dining room helping to serve breakfast or spending time ensuring that all the ‘special touches’ are in place such as a resident’s favorite newspaper or making sure that a resident that loves music is seated where he or she can hear their favorite songs being played. I know of one Life Enrichment Manager who always greets the group and tells them about the weather and the traffic as well as one or two of the special events planned for the day. One day when she forgot to mention the traffic, one of the residents called her back to remind her that she and the other residents wondered why the LEM had forgotten to include that in her morning report, which demonstrated just how much the residents look forward to hearing the daily news.

Although there is a natural routine and an organized flow in the one-to-one and small group activities that Life Enrichment Managers carry out, no two days are ever alike. LEMs constantly prioritize according to the ever changing needs and preferences of the residents. For example, if a resident that is normally happy and engaged seems to be sad, withdrawn or angry, the LEM will first spend time with that resident to explore what the problem might be with the goal of eventually engaging her in a life skill or activity that brings her purpose and enjoyment. This proactive intervention can make all the difference in starting a resident’s day off on a happy note.

Next the LEM might assist a few residents with life skills such as some light kitchen chores or napkin folding while also making sure that the other residents have their very own personalized reminiscence kit set up for them in their favorite place. One resident who had previously been an Avon representative likes to begin her day by going through her make-up kit and enjoys looking through the catalog and telling others about the products. Two other residents that enjoy word games share in a game of scrabble at a nearby table with the help of a care manager. In the country kitchen, some other residents who always loved to bake and host parties prepare the batter for the cookies that they will help serve later in the day during the afternoon social hour.

Following these activities, the LEM might lead a small group of residents with similar interests in a discussion about preparing the outdoor vegetable garden, asking for their suggestions as he sketches out the plot plan for their final approval. As the week progresses, this daily meeting will eventually lead them to the terrace where they will begin to prepare the soil and plant the seeds or seedlings in the raised-bed garden. It is vital that the Life Enrichment Manager also knows how to use task segmentation to adapt this experience so even residents who are in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease can still take part in some aspect of it. This might be by helping to prepare the soil or even watering the plants. These types of meaningful activities actually seem to help residents maintain their functional skills longer.

In my most recent Huffington Post article, I shared more examples of ways Sunrise’s LEMs have worked with our Reminiscence residents and provided tips on how caregivers can engage seniors with memory loss to better enrich their lives. From reuniting a resident with their past love for quilting, to helping a senior learn how to communicate through music, our teams have identified and supported residents engagement in meaningful activities to once again find joy in their life.

To hear a story from one of our LEMs, Romeo, check out Sunrise’s Resources to Remember video. You may also download a complimentary guide that provides more information and tips for caregivers. I encourage you to contact a community near you and visit during our upcoming Tour of Homes, to meet our LEMs and learn how you can help your loved one find meaning, purpose and joy each day.