Shaking up the Status Quo

About all-cropped

Next Avenue, public media’s first and only national service for America’s booming 50+ population, has begun a year-long project on aging well, planning for the changes that aging brings and shaping how society thinks about aging. The most recent article – A New Twist on Planned Senior Communities, by Beth Baker, describes four communities that focus on wellness and quality of life. Continue reading

The Piper: Q & A with Steve Shields

The Piper is a new Household Model assisted living community near The Legends in Kansas City, KS. The Piper was developed and built by Assisted Living Associates, a partnership between PAR Development, Clarkson Construction Company and Action Pact, a Manhattan, KS based company specializing in senior living.  Action Pact pioneered the Household Model, an innovative philosophy that embodies person-centered care.  Their services include development and design of senior living environments, organizational transformation and consulting.  They are nationally known for their innovative work of transforming assisted living and nursing homes from institutions into warm, nurturing homes. Steve Shields, CEO of Action Pact, answers questions about what this model offers from a variety of folks with different needs.

Transformative Leadership: Reinventing How We Age

With emotions running high, Steve Shields, Action Pact CEO, shares his personal experience with his mother who was placed in a nursing home, and the devastating aftermath of her time there. Through his determined efforts, Shields has transformed the senior living industry, and his talk reflects the need to change how we think about our elders.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Culture Change – An Inside Job!

The following heart-felt piece illustrates what often happens to folks during their time at one of Action Pact’s intensive educational offerings.  Karmen Payne, of Fair Haven Retirement Community in Birmingham, AL, recently attended the Nurse Leader intensive, and a fire was lit.  These are her thoughts as she headed home.

The journey to understanding household models is more than learning a management style or philosophy to me. The vision is unique, individualized and as alive as the people living and working in the households. The characteristic “schedules” of the nursing home are absent and the resident is the driver of the pace, style and atmosphere in the home. The critical attitudes, noise and tension are gone. The hierarchy of departments melts away. Rather than entering a “hall,” households truly seem to offer residents, families, staff members and visitors like me, a piece of their home for a time.

At first, I expected to attend a nurse leadership intensive and get a “how to” experience. I had my pen, paper and standard three ring binder at the ready. I quickly put most of that away in favor of walking the hallways, sitting at tables and engaging with members of households to discover what made their household tick. The atmosphere was so shockingly different from my own experiences. The quiet, peaceful interactions were personal and calm. There was no running about by anyone. The residents of each house I visited seemed to come and go at leisure. Everyone was joyful and attentive from the nursing assistants to the licensed dietician serving at the grill. Even the families I encountered were happy!

Returning to the classroom for reflection and discussion, I discovered I was not alone in my shock. There were others on the same journey as my building. That is a trek to finding our pathway to creating home for our residents — the way the residents want home to be. However, rather than a “ten-step plan to compliance and home,” I discovered a guide to self-examination that challenged me to change. If we are to become a household, I was going to have to think differently, respond differently and lead differently. Ten steps were not going to fix the problem on the “floor.” No. The changes I needed were an inside job that would become contagious as we build homes, teams and families to care for our residents’ needs as our residents desire us to.

So,Heart inside person I am beginning the journey with a change of heart and a renewal of spirit. I want to serve my residents and my team by honoring them, empowering them and getting out of their way while motivating them to do what only they can do. Create home. Pursue life. Honor the spirit of each individual in each household in their own unique way. I realize the standard I have lived by for the last 20 years is going to change. I am not the decision maker. Every water pitcher won’t be sanitized on Tuesday any more. Yet, every resident will be honored, fulfilled and respected every single day. I am losing nothing and they gain everything, especially their right to pursue life in their later years on their own terms.

This change will not come without pain. There will be less gossip and more accountability. Confrontation and discussion will replace accusation and blame in our lives. I will have to be brave and bold. Trust will grow as a foundation and control will crumble under its weight. Character and principle will replace compliance and enforcement. Our number will shrink to only those with a heart to serve at first. However, in the end we will become a stable team of servant-leaders dedicated to our calling.

Each home will be different. Each schedule will not follow my best-laid plan. No longer will “my” team spend half their day meeting with me and others like me anymore. Silo jobs will die out. Assignment sheets may well vanish into the abyss with shower schedules and get up lists. Yet, at the end of this pathway of curves, valleys, laughter and tears, maybe we will have created something valuable and lasting to leave as a legacy. Maybe we will have transformed our facility into a home.

Would you like to Hear the Voice of Households? Click here to watch video clips with stories, testimonials and great ideas! 

Photo Op: A Lesson for All

This story comes to us from Sarah Bishop, Social Services Mentor/Household Coordinator at The Davis Community in Wilmington, NC.

The husband of a resident (“Mr. Smith”) was in the team room saying that what he appreciated most about the house was the fact that the staff cares so much for both the residents AND families. Here is what triggered this affirmation: Dana, a Social Worker, walked into Mrs. Smith’s room. Everyone knew she was in her final days, and Dana observed Mrs. Smith in a most peaceful state, holding Mr. Smith’s hand and rubbing his arm. She looked so contented and at peace, and after her struggles with dementia, it was awesome to cell phone-2see. Dana asked Mr. Smith for his phone and was able to capture that moment on video for him, and Mr. Smith shared it with his wife’s out-of-town family, to show how at peace and comfortable she was then. He said the family members were so appreciative of this captured moment, and he became a bit tearful, saying, “Not every place thinks that this is important, but you’ve all made it so. And I don’t know what to say to that, except thank you.” Sarah knows that other families at The Davis Community have similar feelings, and is sure such thoughtfulness happens throughout the community. She says that, “‘death with dignity’ has become such a customary way of doing things that we overlook how special this event is. When we’re looking at household progression and successes, I hope we focus on this one in a huge way. Talk about this in your learning circles, and the impact that everyone is making without even realizing it. Staff deserves to feel good about this because really… what better gift to give?”

Hear more voices from households

Staff Get a Feel for Person-Centered Service at Camp Culture

Camp Culture

There is no getting poison ivy or lost at this camp: Self-contained for six hours in a comfortable room away from all distraction, 10 staff team members and their facilitators relax and share about themselves, thoughts on home, and ideas for making life better for their residents at this CCRG. It’s proving to be an exhilarating means of introducing staff to the fundamentals of person-centered service. Continue reading