Director of Recreation Lana Knutson: Moving Body, Mind, and Spirit

Even the challenges of COVID can’t dampen Lana Knutson’s love for what she does each day at Noble Horizons. As the Director of Recreation, Lana is responsible for putting a smile on every resident’s face every day. She and her colleagues offer activities and programs that stimulate the mind, body, and spirit. It’s a challenge that Lana is more than equal to, given her training, creativity, determination, and can-do attitude.

Lana started at Noble as a unit secretary on Riga and Whitridge units. As a person who likes to move and keep things fresh, she didn’t feel this was ultimately the right role. Already a CNA, Lana transitioned into the therapeutic recreation director (TRD) role on Whitridge. “I was scared to death of dementia and Alzheimer’s. I think it was the unpredictability and cognitive decline that frightened me. I thought, ‘I’m going to conquer this.’ Little did I know that I would fall in love with the residents and the job 100 percent.”

In her current role, she’s charged with keeping life exciting and stimulating for all Noble residents, a job that became more challenging with COVID restrictions.” COVID hit the Recreation department’s activities hard. Yet the one-to-one time is so necessary to fulfill the needs of residents. I want to reassure them that we’re all in this together. This reassurance is something our residents really need right now.” Recently, Lana earned her Certificate of Therapeutic Recreation and doesn’t plan to stop her education and training in the field.

As with before COVID, Lana’s team is committed to “fulfilling all therapeutic aspects that keep residents physically and emotionally involved, stimulated, and engaged. I have a wonderful and dedicated department that genuinely wants to put smiles on the faces of our residents.”

So much of the challenge right now is creating activities that maintain distance in small groups. Lana bristles at the term “social distancing.” She prefers to call it “physical distancing” because while there is more space between residents, she and her team are working hard to keep the social aspect fully present.

These activities include hallway exercise sessions, word games, puzzles, and carts laden with ice cream, birthday cake, and other treats.

On May 20, a date etched in Lana’s memory, family visits resumed. These time slots booked solid. Despite the time commitment on the part of Noble staff, they are determined to make sure residents connect with loved ones while being diligent about the safety protocols that have kept COVID at bay in the Noble community. Says Lana, “These visits bring such joy, even to the staff. It’s such a thrill to see family members together again in a safe manner.”

In recent days, restrictions have loosened somewhat, and Lana can organize sightseeing trips on the Noble van for a few residents at a time. Norma (Baker) is excellent at pointing out local landmarks that some residents never knew existed.” There are also BBQs and other outdoor social activities. Observes Lana, “It’s wonderful to witness residents see each again for the first time. We’ve had to keep units separated, so this is the first time in a while that friends have seen each other.”

Lana is fed on multiple levels by her work with Noble residents and colleagues. “The smile that you get when you walk into a room is so gratifying. Residents see you, and they know they will be engaged and enjoy the time they are spending with us. It greatly pleases me to know that I am providing joy to residents.” As for her colleagues, “This is my extended family.”

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