One Of The Plagues Makes The News
One of the Plagues in the News
A recent McKnight’s article discusses the issues around learned helplessness and links to depression in Elders. The Eden Alternative identified this connection early on, designating helplessness as one of the three plagues.
However, we also have Principle Four, which gives us the antidote to helplessness, stating that an Elder-Centered community creates opportunity to give as well as receive care.
The article describes the phenomenon in long-term care:
There are many situations in long-term care that can lead to learned helplessness among residents. Every time a call bell goes unanswered for too long, it leads residents to conclude that there’s no point in asking for help. When a staff member tells a resident she’ll follow through on a task and then doesn’t, that experience is reinforced.
The concept of learned helplessness demonstrates a complete breakdown of the care partnership.
The article starts off well, identifying a harmful phenomenon, giving the psychological basis for that phenomenon. But then, despite what I’m sure were the author’s best efforts, she misses the point and goes on to suggest fixes like shortening bell response times and instituting a suggestion box.
The concept of learned helplessness is based on the principle of failure. For all your efforts to care for yourself or others you are told “No, I am going to do that for you.” Really, by the time an elder is at the point of relying on, and subsequently being disappointed by, the nurse call bell, helplessness has been institutionalized.
We know Principle Four works and have seen its benefits over and over again in communities on the Eden Registry. In the spirit of deeper understanding, please share some of your ideas and practices for how Principle Four can be put into action.