Getting “Real” With Quality of Life

February 28, 2013
Angie Mcallister, ChangingAging Contributor

[Originally published on the Signature Lifecare Quality of Life blog]

I wrote an article for ChangingAging recently entitled, I Hate Bingo.  I have had a few days to really reflect on my article and some of the comments that were sent my way by various readers.

Looking at what it means to be institutionalized, it reeks of activities like bingo, ball tosses, and the dreaded laundry folding. While all these things may have their place in life (I suppose), I can’t imagine waking up one day and saying, “I can’t wait to go to ball toss today” OR “It’s time to fold towels all day”. The sore point is that typically the balls aren’t even fun balls that are being tossed about and the towels are typically only white towels with no color. While there may be a level of engagement in some of these things, have we ever stopped to question ourselves on why that is? Is it because the Elders have become so rigid in the thought that it is all they can do? Is it because we have placed limitations on them without knowing their capabilities?

I also began to think alot today about our vision statement as a company. There are five words that stand out to me in that statement. Real quality of life initiatives are the five little words that call my name each morning. Looking at those words, I started to mentally categorize some things that fulfill this mission statement because bingo and ball toss surely don’t reflect it!

There have been some amazing stories that were given to me recently that really bring this mission to life. People always look for the big things like our trips to Myrtle Beach or the overnight camping trips that we plan for Elders but fail to  recognize the other things that happen each and every day in our homes.

For example, the therapy department at Washington Care and Rehab in North Florida recently helped an Elder regain a wonderful quality of life. She is living in the home and unable to do most things due to a debilitating disease she has. She has always been an avid reader and had no quality of life because she couldn’t turn the pages on her books any longer. Therapy was able to teach her to operate a Nook and now she is reading again. She is in charge of the book reviews for the home and has a spot on the bulletin board where she shares them. This to me is an example of a “real quality of life initiative”. Her point of need was met because those around her wanted her to be the best she could be. I think her quality of life would be much different somewhere else where individualized care is not at the forefront of the hearts of the stakeholders.

Another wonderful story took place at Pine Ridge Care and Rehabilitation where an Elder who loves to paint has been given free reign to paint a mural for the neighborhood in which he lives. This will be a living work of art. How beautiful it is for him to be an active part in creating the community around him.

Recently at Signature Healthcare of Trimble County, Elders wanted to start a service project in which they could help the children in the hospital feel more love. They started a “real quality of life initiative” in which they sewed heart shaped pillows for the children and will deliver them when they are completed.

The key component in all of these “activities” are that they are not only engaging, they are real. For too many years, nursing homes have filled Elder’s days with activities that are not always meaningful and sometimes even childish.

As I look back at those five words and connect it to the wonderful stories I have heard recently, I realize more than ever that it is truly the “little” things in life that make us feel content and happy.  Engagement, purpose, meaning, and real quality of life initiatives like these are what will eventually transform the world of Elders living in long term care facilities. When all of those things happen, then life changes in the home. The focus is different. It is no longer about how many activities are on the calendar but more about the quality of the things the Elders choose to do.

Please respond and let me know about the “real quality of life initiatives” in your home and how it has transformed life for the Elders who are living there. These are the stories that will eventually change the landscape of long term care forever.

1 Comment. Leave new

I am truly impressed with your article and comments. I am new to the field and about to graduate with a masters in gerontology. As soon as I began school and was exposed to the activities taking place in many of our nursing homes, I began to wonder why these activities were so junvenile. Both my parents have passed but I know both of them would have been terribly bored in most of the nursing homes I have read about and seen. Activity directors need to rethink what “is” possible and not impose limits on their elders that may not exist. Hats off to the organizations that are thinking outside of the box and rethinking ” what is possible”!

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