Residents Become PersonFirst® Trainers at Assisi House

High involvement is at the core of Action Pact’s PersonFirst® training. After all, it is a train the trainer model wherein Action Pact consultants train folks in an organization who then train others on the principles of putting the person first. Traditionally, PersonFirst® is a program for staff. Sometimes residents from Independent Living or spouses of those living in the nursing home will be trained. The community of Assisi House in Aston, PA, the retirement convent for the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, has really taken the high involvement to heart and included resident sisters among the first to be trained.

“It is important that the sisters feel like they are contributing and that their perspective is valuable,” said Shelia O’Gara, the Program Director at Assisi House. There are seven sisters who are trainers and Shelia said they hope to get 50-60 percent of the residents to take the training.

“The sisters have always been committed to community. It is the framework of their order,” said LaVrene Norton, Founder of Action Pact. “Having resident trainers sends a strong message to the trainees that the organization really believes that everyone needs to honor one another, that residents are directing their own lives and community is being built among residents as they take care of one another.”

Sr. Francis Anne, one of the sister trainers, said she enjoyed being part of the presentation on homelessness and there was a good response among the trainees. She opened the session with this prayer from St. Francis De Sales
“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever even if your whole world seems upset.”

“Home,” Sr. Francics Anne said, “is an essential need for all, where we can retreat, regroup and find ourselves. Sanctuary of home is necessary to feel safe, whole and belonging to somewhere.” She sees how residents in traditional nursing homes often do not have this sanctuary and are, in that sense, homeless. “Putting the person first is a direct reversal of the trend toward a more assembly line of care in nursing homes today,” she said.

When residents are involved in PersonFirst® training they help the organization grow in person-centered ways, but the involvement can also have a very personal benefit. “A resident may have a friend who has memory loss, and perhaps that friend is moved to a neighborhood that serves folks living with dementia,” explained LaVrene. “Suddenly, and not intentionally, the resident may find herself acting differently toward her friend because she is unable to engage her the way she always has. PersonFirst® helps residents embrace their friendships again.”

Steph Kilen has been writing about culture change since 2004. Her work at Action Pact has included writing and editing for Culture Change Now magazine and the website, as well as writing and editing workbooks, video scripts, books, blogs, webinars and curricula.

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