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PHI’s New Training for Residential Care Settings

May 22, 2017

PHI has a new person-directed living workshop with a radical goal: transforming how staff think about care.

“The premise of this training is that older people have a right to live in well-being, just like the rest of us,” expained PHI Organizational Change Consultant Cean Eppelheimer. “We want this to be the lens through which staff see everything: how does what we’re doing support elders to live in well-being? It’s really a total paradigm shift from a traditional model that revolves around the needs of the institution.”

The daylong training invites staff to better understand the concept of “well-being” by reflecting on their own experience of four universal human needs:

  1. Relationships
  2. Being well-known in a community
  3. Choice and control
  4. Meaningful engagement

The training also provides staff with how to think about how a traditional model of care might undermine the well-being of residents. “It’s not about blaming people, it’s about recognizing that we have good people working in a broken system,” said Eppelheimer. “Until you know a better way, you can’t offer it.”

Ultimately, the goal is for organizations to use PHI’s curriculum to transform their own systems. One organization that has already done this is Westminster Canterbury in Lynchburg, Virginia. “When you visit that community, you can really see that everything is seen through the lens of elder well-being,” said Eppelheimer. “It’s really powerful.”

Sue Ellen Clark is Lead Support for Culture Change and Director of Therapeutic Recreation, CTRS at Westminster Canterbury Lynchburg. She recently shared with us some of the ways that PHI’s curriculum has changed the way they make day-to-day decisions that affect residents. For example:

  • A resident who needed new clothes and had no resources of her own was initially provided with hand-me-downs.  While the hand-me-downs ensured her physical comfort, they didn’t truly support her well-being because they did not support her in having choice and control over something as fundamental as her physical appearance.  Clark added: “The social work department secured some fellowship money and the activities team took her shopping so that she could pick out her own clothes.”
  • A couple who now reside at Westminster Canterbury Lynchburg often talk about how much they miss their home on a nearby lake. The activities staff found a way to rent several pontoon boats that are wheelchair accessible so that the couple could revisit the place that was so special to them. The staff arranged two separate voyages so that the couple could be joined by as many other residents and family members as possible.

Westminster Canterbury Lynchburg has much to celebrate in terms of establishing a truly person-directed model of care. They also recognize that they are on a journey that has no clear endpoint: there will always be opportunities for improvement.

Sue Ellen Clark shared this additional story with us:

“Recently, one of our residents passed away. She had dementia and a feisty personality. The staff provided her with the care she needed, but we should expect much more than that in our person-directed model. After her death, we read her obituary and discovered that she accompanied her diplomat husband to many foreign posts, she was an accomplished artist, and she worked with civic and political organizations over many decades. We learned so much about her, but we learned it after she died. We could have supported her so much more if we had really known her. It’s because of her that we will be developing a ‘life story’ project. We want to be able to know all of our residents’ stories. Everyone deserves to be known.”

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