SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s a health care role designed to take care of a nursing home resident’s mental well-being. In tonight’s Your Money Matters, we dive into this important role while celebrating National Activity Professionals week.

After nearly three decades working as an activities director, Becky Erickson says her favorite part of her job is spending time with all of her residents.

“Love being able to have that one-to-one with the residents, getting to know them. I love their stories, you can learn so much,” Erickson said.

It’s the personal touch that goes a long way in helping residents at the Good Samaritan Village in Sioux Falls feel at home.

“It brings us close together, gives us a feeling of community and belonging,” resident Susan Johnson said.

Whether it’s crafts, board games or puzzles, some form of music or performance, or more-in-depth large group activities like racecars, activities directors spend much of their time planning how to put a smile on their residents’ faces.

“Those that fit best in activities are those that are willing to be in front of people and are willing to be goofy, because you have to bring joy to people sometimes,” Erickson said.

Nursing home administrators know these special activities and experiences go far beyond just filling time.

“It’s really important for that mental well-being of our residents to have a good activities supervisor, to have a good activities staff, they get their nails painted, have music, entertainment that helps their psychosocial well-being,” Good Sam Sioux Falls Village Administrator Dana Bachmeier said.

“If the resident is active and connected to other residents, you see less depression, less anxiety. What an anti-depressant can do we can sometimes do with a fun game,” Erickson said.

A profession that is helping to make a difference in the lives of the people they serve every day.

“They help keep your morale up. When you can do something that they share with you it’s a sense of accomplishment,” Johnson said.

Like Erickson, activities professionals often begin as CNAs who realize they have a knack for helping residents get active. But it is a profession that doesn’t require any medical degree or certification. Even high school students can join the activities staff at skilled nursing facilities across KELOLAND.

“It doesn’t require a degree, all it takes is a caring heart,” Erickson said.