Ask an 88-year-old woman who lives in an assisted living facility which she would rather have: genuine crystal chandelier in the facility’s dining room OR 30-minutes per week of conversation with a social worker who really cares about the struggles and challenges she faces.
Then ask her, as much as she enjoys her facility’s picture perfect landscaping, would she trade it for a proper introduction and tour provided by a group of fellow residents, the first day she arrives.
And what about this woman’s personal care attendants (PCAs)? You know the ones: many fresh out of high school, who are expected to dress and bathe the resident, help her into and out of her wheelchair, wipe her behind, etc. Start by asking her what effect PCA turnover has on her life. (One out of two PCAs currently change employers at least once a year.)
If you want to take these interventions to their natural conclusions, do what my facility is attempting to do beginning Jan 1st. We’ve decided we will begin an emphasis toward community as opposed to individual by implementing small programs slowly, naturally and gradually. After our regularly scheduled exercise program from 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM, we will now add a 30 min. MEDITATION instruction project. We’re going to use zazen as the meditation vehicle because of its simplicity. (It translates from the Japanese “sitting quietly” and is used in Zen Buddhist monasteries.)
The meditation will ultimately become the “glue” that allows us to try more ambitious programs such as the “Responder Program.” This will pair-up residents undergoing an anxiety crisis with volunteers trained to simply hold their hands, help regulate breathing as they read from MENDELA’S PROTOCOLS.
The principles themselves are the end product of nearly forty-years of meditation with my initial training in both Catholic Benedictine and Soto Zen Buddhist monasteries. MK Bayne