Dr. El’s Theory of Angry Activities

“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.

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Dr. El’s Theory of Angry Activities

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