Pioneer Network: Advocating for Elders Wherever They May Live!

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Cathy Lieblich, Director of Network Relations

Many people know Pioneer Network primarily as an advocate for those who live and work in traditional nursing homes. This is a great thing to be known for, and we are proud of the changes that have occurred due to the efforts of so many outstanding culture change leaders, but our work reaches far beyond the traditional nursing home. Pioneer Network advocates for elders across the spectrum of living options and is working towards a culture of aging that supports the care of elders in settings where individual voices are heard and individual choices are respected. The goal is to create homes that are consumer-driven and resident directed.

It’s been almost 20 years since the First Gathering of the “Nursing Home Pioneers,” convened by Carter Catlett Williams, following visits to Scandinavia and other countries where she realized that nursing homes could be different; they could be real homes vs. institutions. Those present were professionals who were transforming nursing homes, people instrumental in the passage of OBRA ’87, the Nursing HomeReform Law, as well as a “rogue” Federal regulator who was committed to creating real home in nursing homes. This impressive group realized that the need went beyond transformation of nursing homes, articulating a vision of “a culture of aging that is life affirming, satisfying, humane and meaningful.”

Answering this call to action, “Pioneer Network in Culture Change” was formed in 1999, and a mission statement established that begins with “The Pioneer Network advocates and facilitates deep system change and transformation in our culture of aging.” Our work in the early years, however, remained focused heavily on the nursing home setting.  At that time, assisted living was in its infancy, born out of a desire to provide alternatives to the nursing home and to create a “non-institutional” option for consumers.

Advocating for elders in Assisted Living and other settings is an integral part of our current work. For the past several years we have worked in partnership with assisted living stakeholders to educate and advocate for person-directed care in these settings.  We have provided education at our annual conferences and through webinars that are either focused on assisted living or that include content of interest and of use to assisted living providers.

I have the privilege of serving on the Board of Directors of the Center for Excellence in Assisted Living (CEAL).  Through CEAL, Pioneer Network partners with assisted living stakeholders including provider, consumer,advocacy and professional organizations, as a part of “a national coalition of diverse stakeholder organizations dedicated to advancing excellence in assisted living.”  With our involvement, CEAL has created three important resources that have also been shared with CMS to help inform their guidance on the Home and Community-based Settings Rule including:

  • “Person-Centered Care in Assisted Living: An Informational Guide” – a conceptual framework for identifying HCBS attributes and person-centered care;
  • “Person-Centered Care Domains of Practice: General Home and Community-Based Services Attributes and Assisted Living Indicators” – which translates the conceptual framework into observable outcomes;
  • “Toolkit for Person-Centeredness in Assisted Living: An Informational Guide and Questionnaires of Person-Centered Practices in Assisted Living” (for AL to use in their daily operations).

CEAL has also, at the invitation of CMS, submitted proposed guidance language regarding person-centered care for individuals living with dementia in assisted living. Pioneer Network is committed to continuing to advocate for and educate providers on implementing person-directed care in assisted living.

The advocacy of Pioneer Network may have begun with elders living in traditional nursing homes but today that advocacy stretches so much further.  And tomorrow? We invite that story to be written by the next generation of innovators and advocates that are the Pioneer Network.

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