When my brothers were playing basketball in the street, I would find myself sitting at the feet of elders in my neighborhood – listening to fascinating stories of faraway places and times. Volunteering in local assisted living communities, I became both excited and angry. Excited as I found I belonged in these intergenerational micro-neighborhoods where authentic friendships blossomed. Angry as I saw the greatest generation wasting away in loneliness, purposelessness, and disconnection from the wider community.
Interview on Purpose
Yet, even though I’ve invested my career in seeking the best tools to improve quality of life, I’ve become convinced that all of my person-centered, relationship-centered, culture-change goals are only nice ideas without an unrelenting passionate pursuit of quality of life for workers. Nothing we seek to accomplish for elders can happen without empowered, confident, healthy, and inspired workers. Promising innovations are unsustainable and only temporary without this most fundamental ingredient.
While I would love to write an article announcing fresh ways to once-and-for-all solve this issue for our field, I can’t because it’s on ongoing challenge that each generation must answer in their own way. Instead, I’m going to share three areas I am focusing on in 2020 in my role of influencing 2100 employees caring for over 1500 elders across eight states.
#1 – Humanitude
There’s a lot of hopeful innovation right now. However, there’s nothing I’m more excited about than Humanitude finally coming to the US. So many things have begun to feel like gimmicks and flashy new toys in comparison to the wellbeing outcomes our team members are achieving with the care protocols from France-based Humanitude.
In short, Humanitude does not depend on designing the perfect environment or crafting the most progressive daily program in order for nurses and care partners to make a decisive impact. The protocols work in messy, chaotic, imperfect settings. And, they can be applied immediately – without a college education or a deeply reflective, self-aware skillset. These researchers take theoretical relationship-centered constructs and turn them into learnable skills that become habit quickly.
In our pilots, we’ve watched people stand again after two years of inability, communicating with a spouse again, willingly accepting showers after refusing for months, sleeping in their bed again talking when everyone thought they couldn’t, and so much more.
Instead of asking more of already overwhelmed care partners, Humanitude has been a gift of empowerment, confidence, and inspiration.
If there were only one thing that I could do as a gerontologist in my lifetime, it would be to be part of bringing Humanitude to the USA as a sustainable practice.
Care partners sharing success after 4 days of practicing Humanitude.
#2 – Neuroscience with Dr. John Medina
Articles online and in print proliferate with conflicting and dubious prescriptions for keeping our brain healthy. In designing wellness initiatives for our 1500+ elders and educating our care partners, I need evidence-based research that is actionable.
Dr. John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist at the University of Washington, School of Medicine, in Seattle. He has a rare ability to help non-physicians navigate the complex, nuanced science of brain health and arrive at practical actions based on confident evidence.
His work regarding reminiscing, friendships, gratitude, sleep, and teaching children as elders are particular interesting to me personally. The outcomes are surprising. The outlining of specific how-to’s from the research give direction. It is this body of work I am relying on for future evidence-based program development.
Dr. John Medina at Google Talks.
#3 – 21st Century Training
Senior living is infamous for absurdly poor training experiences and information systems. Hours of videos, infuriatingly boring online modules, haphazard in-services, policies in outdated binders, and important guidance buried in email chains.
But, I keep pinching myself, isn’t this 2020?
We have so much rich progress in human-centered design in other industries. Why not apply these principles to our industry? Why continue doing what we know does not make a measurable difference but only checks off compliance and liability boxes?
In 2020, training for care partners must be:
- Hands-on or Experiential
- Multiple Micro Sessions vs. Half-Day or Full-Day
- Inspiring, Imaginative, Immediately Relevant
- Translated into the Language Learners Understand
Our systems for storing knowledge and finding what’s needed must be:
- Easy to read or watch in plain language
- Easy to find whenever needed and on any device
- Facilitates peer-to-peer learning and knowledge sharing
- Guides workers to just-in-time updated knowledge
A few tools at work for other industries that have promise for our industry include:
If you are like me and are seeking to reimagine how care partners and other team members learn, let’s connect. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. I believe that collaboration is the best way to design and the only way to see sustainable improvement in empowering us all to thrive as we age. If you agree, won’t you share your thoughts and comments below with other Pioneers.