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Meet Penny Shaw, National Advocate for Nursing Home Residents

August 14, 2015

When PHI Organizational Change Consultant Anna Ortigara introduced me to her friend Penny Shaw, I knew I was in for something special! Penny Shaw, Ph.D., is a national advocate for nursing home residents and individuals living with disabilities. Penny has been living in a nursing home in Massachusetts for 13 years and has first-hand experience in how the current systems and laws impact residents. She has learned how to direct all aspects of her daily living and care choices, and generously invited PHI to videotape her perspective to be shared in the opening plenary at the 2015 Pioneer Network Conference.

On a hot day in July, PHI Online Communications Director Aaron Toleos and I met with Penny at the Thayer Public Library in Braintree, Massachusetts. Penny had reserved a room at the library that would offer a space where we could interview and videotape her responses. Aaron and I both left the meeting  feeling very grateful for her teachings, and with renewed clarity about how far we have to go to reach widespread person-directed living. For example, Penny makes her own personal and medical appointments, arranges her own transportation, and manages her own medical records. In fact, she controls all of her personal needs just as a person would living in their own home — and that’s exactly the point!

When Penny needs to reach the Director of Nursing, Administrator, or any other department head, she simply sends them an email. I remember my surprise that Penny communicates with management via email, and her response will forever be etched in my mind — “It’s 2015, of course I communicate by email! It’s far more efficient than trying to chase people down and waiting for responses.” So true, and yet, many nursing home residents have little access to email or are limited to the one or two desktop computers available for all the residents to share.

In talking with Penny about what she would like to share with the Pioneer Network audience, her passion was clear. She does not like the term “person-centered care” and eloquently explained how it misses the mark. At a minimum she prefers “person-directed care” because that clearly places power with the resident as it should be.

— by Susan Misiorski, PHI National Director of Coaching & Consulting Services

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