Are You Bored Yet? Part 1
going to work every day and doing the same simple task. For the sake of
illustration, lets say that task is sorting paper clips by size and color.
After spending forty-five tedious minutes on the job, you are finally done.
approaches, and says, "Great job!" Then
she dumps all the paper clips out onto the table and says, "Now, do it again."
How are you
finished a job, and have done it well enough to earn some verbal praise from
the boss. So why would she undo your work only to have you start over? Perhaps
she has another motive, one you don't know about.
sorting paper clips is not the real task at hand. Or, could it be that she
really didn't like your work, and was just saying she did so as not to hurt
your feelings? Could she just not like you very much, and want to make your
You go home
and put the put the paper clip incident out of your mind. The next day when you
arrive to work, what do you see waiting for you but...more paper clips!
How do you
feel now? Probably all of the previous day's emotions return, and perhaps a few
new ones. You may be thinking that you don't want to have this job at all, and
begin to think of ways to avoid it. You call in sick. You hide out in another
department and hope to escape the paper clip assignment. You whine and plead
for another assignment. But the boss insists... more paper clips.
therapists, we must avoid the "paper clip trap": those redundant, repetitive
tasks that do serve a purpose (e.g., attention, sequencing, problem solving,
memory of directions) but have no value or meaning to the patient.
I can think
of several often-used activities (e.g., folding towels, sequencing pictures,
naming picture cards, putting colored pegs on a board) around the nursing home
that can become so tedious that patients do actually claim to feel sick, or
hide out elsewhere in the building, or just have an old-fashioned tantrum at
the thought of going to the therapy room.
some patients with cognitive-linguistic deficits due to dementia and disease
processes may be content with repetitive tasks, others are going to become
bored and restless sooner, depending on their cognitive level.
count how many times I've heard patients ask, "Why do I have to do this
As trained professionals providing skilled services, we can plan interesting
and rewarding activities at that patient's level. Put it this way: would you be
satisfied if your child's kindergarten teacher taught the same lesson every day
for weeks because it addressed the curriculum, and after all, kindergartners
are so young they won't notice? I didn't
think so. While activities have to be adjusted to a patient's abilities,
repetitious and redundant activities do not have to be the norm.
Next week: Ideas for therapy
activities at various levels!