Facilitating Life Passions: Celebrate the Person, Grow the Team
A few days ago I was lecturing my 14 year-old about safety and his passion for snowboarding and long boarding (skateboarding with a longer board). “Mom,” he told me, “You are asking me to hold back on what I love!” These can be very dangerous sports, and Ethan embraces them with a gusto I can’t help but admire. He’ll spend hours mastering some new trick or “slide.” His love for it shines through his grace and ease, as he speeds by. I have to admit it. I love watching him, even as my primal mommy instincts are screaming on the inside. There is just something really moving about watching someone “in the zone,” doing something that inspires them deeply.
If there is anything we can each relate to, it is having life passions. They are those things that are intensely meaningful to us, that define us. Big or small, they are at the core of who we are. When we have the opportunity to experience what we love and share it with others, we feel more alive and more aligned with a deeper sense of self. If person-directed care begins with being well-known, what better way is there to demonstrate our commitment to this value than through the facilitation of life passions?
In the long-term care culture, regardless of the living environment, life passions can be confused with planned activities or even simple pleasures. The facilitation of life passions for someone reaches far beyond amusement to avocation – something we feel compelled to master and, perhaps, even offer to other members of our community. Be it mastery of a craft or putting some form of activism into action, life passions give us purpose and pleasure.
In traditional care settings where experiences may become homogenized for the convenience of the provider, life passions can easily fly under the radar, undetectable in day-to-day life. Person-directed care helps organizations create a culture that is designed to bring life passions to the surface, and then offer the support needed to bring them to life. I read a beautiful article once about an adult day community that was practicing the Montessori approach to caring for individuals living with dementia. In this case, they created spaces with lots of materials and objects that offered sensory stimulation. These materials often serve as triggers for “muscle memory” and may help reveal a person’s skills and interests, without the exchange of a single word. One Elder, who was not very verbal, began working some yarn in a way that hinted she had a hidden skill there. Seeing this, a care partner sat next to her and offered her some knitting needles. The Elder immediately began to cast on a stitch and knit up a storm. No one had any idea that knitting was such a big part of her life at one time. She was captivated and created beautiful pieces, one after another. In this case, her environment and a very observant care partner helped reveal her life passion.
Once an active volunteer around homelessness and hunger issues, another Elder I knew expressed an interest in creating a campaign to support the local homeless population. Her care partner team worked with her to secure the information and resources to help make it happen. Her passion for the issue was infectious, and soon, she had many converts eagerly supporting her cause. Here, strong teamwork and an organizational culture flexible enough to respond to and facilitate her interest made the difference.
To engage care partner teams (Elders, employees, family members, and/or volunteers) on the subject of life passions, consider the following questions:
- How do we currently operate that supports the identification and facilitation of life passions?
- What do we currently do that might serve as a barrier to facilitating life passions?
- What do we know right now that could help us get started defining what this means for us?
- Which Elders and individuals on our team are our “burning souls” around this topic?
On May 14, from 3-4:00 pm ET, the last live event in the Facilitative Leadership Webinar Series, Facilitating Life Passions, will explore how leaders can facilitate an organizational culture that focuses on realizing the life passions of Elders and their care partners. Chris Cheek of Sentry Care, Inc., and Anna Ortigara of the Green House Project, will discuss how developing a focus on life passions naturally defines the rhythm of daily life and creates a vibrant community devoted to the authentic expression of the people who live and work within it. For more information about facilitative leadership, read “The Key to Sustainable Leadership is a Facilitative Approach.”