Updated: Aug 2, 2022
“Change is never easy, and it often creates discord, but when people come together for the good of humanity and the Earth, we can accomplish great things.” – David Suzuki
A million plus older adults living in the over 15,000 U.S. nursing homes are essentially trapped in an industry that only offers an existence marked by loneliness, isolation, despair, and helplessness.
People move into nursing home environments for a variety of reasons. They require more care than is available in their community or present living environment. It may be a situation that evolves gradually, is the result of a precipitous decline, or change in medical condition that following hospitalization they find they must transition to a nursing home. But, isolation in one’s own home is another reason that forces people to transition to a nursing home environment.
What is striking about traditional nursing home environments, is that despite being surrounded by people, from young to the most advanced in years over 100, people remain isolated and lonely. The traditional nursing home environment is not conceived as a place of community, gathering, togetherness or connectedness. All of which are essential for thriving physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
While some traditional nursing environments are making efforts and have been successful at embracing culture change and creating a sense of community and belonging for residents, others use the word community and person-centered care like a “buzz word”, checking off the required box to fulfill some latest CMS guideline about providing optimal care environments. One could say they endorse the concept but have not taken the necessary steps for it to become a foundational pillar for providing a caring living environment for elders.
For the residents residing in the latter environment, they continue to languish in loneliness and isolation with little interaction or feelings of connection with others. I intentionally use the word ‘residing’ for this is not living, this is existing. The great waiting ground between life and the ultimate end-of-life destination. It surely doesn’t have to be that way, and indeed, it shouldn’t be.
I’ve been in Denver, Colorado the past few days, attending Pioneer Network’s annual conference an organization dedicated to creating culture change in our nations long term care settings, an industry obviously in desperate need of transformation and change. Change affording older adults the opportunity to continue on their life’s journey with dignity, respect, quality of care and quality of life.
This year’s annual conference differed in one important respect. It was the first year of the joint alliance between Pioneer Network and the Green House Project. Two organizations that have been on parallel paths yet rooted in the vision of one person, Dr. Bill Thomas who sought to deinstitutionalize long term care settings; providing living environments that provide purposeful living, community, dignity, respect, and the quality care that each person needs and deserves. A true person-centered approach to care and caring.
There are always ideas and innovations, new approaches to providing living environments that are designed to be inclusive communities where everyone thrives; inclusiveness that does not separate older adults from the rest of society. One such that I learned about at the conference is the Scandinavian Living Center in Newton, MA. The inspiration and vision of one man, Joe Carella, who realized that bringing the surrounding community into the lives of older adults was necessary for everyone to live and thrive.
It was inspiring to meet and be surrounded by hundreds of passionate like-minded professionals. However, it also saddened me to realize that there are hundreds more owners and operators who continue to operate their nursing homes in the traditional fashion. Operators who cannot see the benefit or have the desire to embrace changes that would provide environments where their residents can enjoy quality of life and, despite experiencing conditions that may thwart their ability to be independent, find meaning, purpose, community and happiness.
Having that at top-of-mind awareness, A quote I came across recently had me query:
Why is the fight so difficult when the result is so beneficial for the hundreds of thousands of lives that are entrusted to these people’s care?
“Change is Never Easy…You Fight to Hold On. You Fight To Let Go”. – iliketoquote.com
I leave you with that question and quote to ponder but preferring to close on a positive note.
This was my first Pioneer Network Conference. It was an honor to present a workshop at the first alliance between Pioneer Network and Green House Project. But even more so, delivering a
reading of the foreword by Dr. Bill Thomas, the visionary behind these organizations was a particular heartfelt moment for me.
Here is an excerpt from the foreword for my book Dignity & Respect, Are Our Aging Parents Getting What They Deserve?
…..She corrects a common misconception that person-centered caring is all about patients.
Actually, it’s all about people. Like all positive changes it begins with leadership. Before any organization can hope to deliver person-centered care to elders, its leadership must deliver person-centered care to the staff, This means addressing structural issues that cause burn-out, pessimism and cynicism. Unfair treatment of staff, inequitable distribution of workloads, a lack of education and training all contribute to toxic long-term care environments. While it is common practice to blame the staff, the responsibility for this lies at the feet of the organization’s leadership. We know how to do better, the time for transformation has arrived.
Phyllis concludes this work with a careful consideration of how ageism damages the well-being of people of all ages. We are all participants in an ageist society, which makes no secret of the belief that older people, while lovable when they are related to us, are actually a plague on society. People say we can’t afford old people, that they are a drain on society, that their insatiable demands will bankrupt our government’s treasury.
Phyllis sees it quite differently. She knows that elders are essential to the functioning of our society and understands that when we cannot muster the courage to offer dignity, kindness and tenderness to the most vulnerable of America’s millions of older people, we reveal much about who we really are.
The time for change has come and this book is your guide to how we can “repair the world” by choosing to follow the path of light and goodnesss. Now, let’s get started,”
Get YOUR FREE E-book of #1 Amazon Bestseller: Dignity & Respect: Are Our Aging Parents Getting What They Deserve at: www.freeagingparentbook.com
To read Phyllis Ayman's latest chapter as coauthor in the USA Today and
WSJ #1 Bestseller grab a copy here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B6WV351V/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_api_KBMMJDSRNA2DYZNQ6T37
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