Friday, August 26, 2011
A Nursing Home is Like a School: Person-Centered Culture Change (Video 3:06)
I started hospice volunteering in Detroit nursing homes while I was a public school principal. It didn’t take long before I observed that nursing homes and schools have several important similarities. Both have cultures that impact people in institutions. A paradigm shift in how some of these institutions are often perceived, not only by the public, but also by those who work in them, is long overdue. This needed transformation is often referred to as person- centered culture change, a movement that focuses on values and practices that respect the input of everyone involved with the institution. Through the eyes of an educator, I will mainly address culture change regarding residents.
In order for a person-centered climate to fully enhance quality of life in nursing homes and other residential institutions for older adults, residents must have experiences similar to what students should have in schools. Like students, residents must first know that the nursing home is a real “home” where they are welcomed and cherished at all times. They must feel that their environments are safe, that trustworthy employees care about them and listen to them with their hearts. Residents must know that their progress as individuals with specialized needs is the primary motivation for everything that goes on. Those with dementia should be challenged to learn new skills in non-threatening ways.
Residents must know that the personal histories they bring matter. These life stories help create who they are, not labels used to judge them and put them in stereotypical categories during their later years. They need ongoing encouragement to use their strengths in productive ways to improve their self-esteem and enhance lives of others. Their talents and accomplishments should be shared with the larger group so they can be appreciated and praised. Finally, their “graduations” (deaths) should be recognized as revered events.
For many institutions, person-centered culture change may seem overwhelming. But the rewards are immense when sincere efforts begin with everyone’s ongoing commitment to succeed. This video titled Where to Start shares an example of person-centered culture change being implemented in a nursing home:
Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many booksellers and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.