Verna Cavey, Advocate, Independent Living Resident, Clermont Park
Moriah Bernhardt, Senior Director Programs, Christian Living Communities
PREFACE: In the article, “Can We Talk,” August of 2021, Verna and Moriah started a conversation with our readers on Resident-Directed Care, introducing the Citizenship model and asking for feedback regarding where organizations are on the Continuum of Resident-Directed Culture. As promised, they are back with Part II of continue the conversation to share what they learned.
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Yes, we did talk! During the last few months, we heard you at state and national conferences, in blog discussions and in participants’ responses to panelists and symposium presenters. Your input has shaped and reshaped our thinking and it’s been exciting to watch the evolution in such a short time.
And you taught us a lesson. In spite of our positive experiences with resident-directed and citizen-based communities, our first article in August may have had a pessimistic tinge to it. For example, we asked, “What are the obstacles which get in the way of resident-directed communities?” This came from our listening to folks at conferences telling us that resident-directed communities were too difficult to create and just plain scary.
What we heard from you instead was a resounding call for change and a strong statement that you were ready to get started. For example, when we did polling and asked where team members and residents were along the continuum (see graph), a large percentage said that they were already resident-directed communities.
This stunned us as the evidence isn’t there. In fact, percentiles are small. The question is “Why?” these results. We can mumble about the fallacy of self-reporting. Or, we can acknowledge that we are often preaching to the choir. Many of you are already invested in compassionate, progressive communities; others are curious in a positive way — not exactly a group of resisters.
However, we would be very remiss if we didn’t talk about Covid as a critical variable. Where years of trying to convince have failed, Covid has opened minds at incredible speed. Here are some of the insights that you have offered:
The resident-directed and citizenship models are all about disrupting the status quo. Covid made it clear that status quo isn’t working and a radical transformation is needed.
- New and more effective housing models are available to us — let’s use them.
- Residents asked that they be educated about these new models and their role in them. Help them see their own capacities and combat learned dependency. They want to come aboard and show the external community too, so that we can finally rid our society of ageism.
- All members of the community — leadership, team members, residents and their families — are participants in community with obligations toward each other. We are all accountable in treating each other with dignity.
- Do a serious study of national and international models and incorporate their best practices into our communities.
- Understand that all communities have some aspects of conflict. With a new collaborative model, we can discuss and resolve them rationally and put away the “scary.”
Probably the best contribution was the addition of the Citizenship model to the continuum. Not surprising, Jill Vitale-Aussem, in her book, Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift, stressed the importance of the citizenship model. We were also able to bring people together for a very open discussion — one that was very much needed. Respected movers and shakers for decades in the aging field joined newcomers and residents to talk about this.
Singular voices have been calling out in the dark for years for a resident-directed community model. Now we are seeing organizations standing behind those voices: Pioneer Network, for example, with their symposium on purpose and meaning and The Beryl Institute with their recent White Paper.
We are walking away from this experience with a far more positive outlook about the future. You did that. We only asked if you could come and talk with us. You came from far and wide and offered a resounding response.
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Verna and Moriah will be back in 2022 with Part III, in which they will share the three main steps they have identified to take in initiating a resident-directed community.