Pioneer Conference Keynote Inspires ‘Living Our Values’ at Jewish Senior Services

“…the generations must find ways to share daily life. Elders need the stimulation of young people … elders need relationships with middle-agers, whose challenges are not so far removed from their own at that age. Children and young people need first hand contact with elders so that old age is not a strange, foreign country to them.”

— Carter Catlett Williams, 2013 Pioneer Network Conference keynote address Continue reading “Pioneer Conference Keynote Inspires ‘Living Our Values’ at Jewish Senior Services”

The Struggle With Choice

Resident choice is a cornerstone of culture change. As we transform our organizations, we are constantly asking ourselves, “How does this promote or honor the residents’ self-determination, preferences and daily pleasures?” This awareness, however, does not mean we don’t still struggle with how to balance these choices against other important concerns, such as resident safety. Continue reading “The Struggle With Choice”

Helping Out and Staying Active

Geurt Van Sant is a man who likes to work, likes to be helpful. His move to Hearthstone: A Ministry of Wesley Life in Pella, IA  was not going to change that. “I’m going to be doing something until the day I have to crawl to get out to the yard to help,” he said. “I enjoy doing that kind of work – work that just has to be done.” Continue reading “Helping Out and Staying Active”

Why We Do Learning Circles

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The learning circle is the handy hammer of culture change – anyone can use it, it’s simple, it’s intuitive and it’s the tool you come back to, over and over, with each new piece of home life you build. For the Household Model to function at its potential, the organization must be reconfigured, doing away with traditional silos and hierarchy. The learning circle is the tool that can assist the organization in that work. Continue reading “Why We Do Learning Circles”

4 Ways High Involvement Supports Organizational Transformation

High involvement is essential for deep transformation. W. Edwards Deming, a statistician, was credited with Japan’s rise in manufacturing after World War II. The improvements were seen clearly in the quality of Japanese cars that began to dominate American highways in the 1970’s. Deming’s processes gradually came to influence the entire auto industry. In his book Out of the Crisis, published in 1982, he detailed 14 points vital to transforming business. His 14th point: Transformation is everyone’s job. Continue reading “4 Ways High Involvement Supports Organizational Transformation”

Rice Is Not Just Rice When It Comes To Resident’s Rights

Hopefully, your organization has by now embraced the New Dining Practice Standards introduced through a CMS-cosponsored process in 2011 and is firmly committed to honoring residents’ choices. You as the dietitian dutifully interview them about their food preferences and try to give them what they say they want.

So what’s up with Mrs. Chu? She said she wants rice at every meal and you make sure it is always on her plate. Yet she never touches it. Why not?

Simply put, a bowl of rice is not just a bowl of rice when you truly honor residents’ rights to autonomy and self-determination. Had you gotten to know more about Mrs. Chu ’s life at home, her rituals, her daily pleasures, you may have learned that she likes to spice up her rice with a little vinegar or soy sauce from a small carafe on the side; that she uses a particular type of grain of rice cooked a certain way and served, sticky and steaming hot, in a decorative china bowl. What comes on her tray in the nursing home bears no resemblance to the rice Mrs. Chu enjoyed at home.

riceI can relate to Mrs. Chu’s disappointment (which is based on an actual resident’s experience) through my moments with coffee while traveling. At home, my day doesn’t start right without a first cup of coffee served just the way I like in my favorite cup and lightened with a little whole milk. For me, the ritual is at least as important as the coffee, which I drink with the morning paper spread before me, the cat in my lap and my feet warmed by the rising sun filtering through the east window. The lukewarm, barely palatable coffee served on the airplane in a small plastic cup with little containers of artificial creamer simply doesn’t measure up. But that’s okay because I know I will soon be home and can enjoy coffee the way I like.

But the nursing facility is Mrs. Chu’s home, and we’re mandated to honor her preference and choice as laid out in the OBRA regulations implemented in 1987. Until now, most nursing homes have taken that mandate to only a very superficial step. The New Dining Practice Standards call for a more meaningful effort, stating: “Residents’ individual choices are actively sought after, care planned and honored, as Tag F 242 requires, based on life patterns, history and current preferences (italics added).

To know details like Mrs. Chu’s rice preferences and my coffee ritual, the dietitian must learn how we live(ed) at home, and that usually necessitates changes in staff behavior, operational systems and social environment.

But it need not require an additional step in the process we already undertake to learn residents true desires – we already interview and assess residents and observe their eating habits in the dining room (or we should). Rather, it’s about adding depth to that process. It’s about building personal relationships to the extent that staff members know the resident’s patterns and moods; what he truly wants and when. When she lived at home, what time in the morning did she normally take her first bite of breakfast? Did he have coffee before, during or after eating? Black or with milk or half-and-half? Sugar or honey? Did she eat alone or in fellowship? Did he watch TV or read the paper at breakfast? What were his favorite recipes? Being this well known by her care providers allows the resident to achieve the same degree of autonomy and self-determination (key words in the OBRA regulations) she’s always enjoyed at home.

Of course, we should not assume that Mrs. Chu won’t someday change her mind and choose something else in place of rice. But we need to know how she did things in the past, and continue working with her to see if she wants to continue in the future. That leads into the issue of the dietitian as advocate on behalf of the resident’s right to self-determination, which is the subject of  a future post.

Linda Bump, MPH is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Nursing Home Administrator with a passion for resident choice and quality of life with a particular focus on the kitchen as the heart of the home.  As an administrator, she has guided four organizations through transformations to a social model of care.  She has extensive experience as a consultant on the Household Model and has provided education on culture change to 60+ nursing homes through her work with Action Pact since 1999.

When Hierarchy Reigns, Culture Change Efforts Flounder

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We can create homey spaces, offer elders more choice and change long standing institutional practices, but culture change and the Household Model will not be effective unless we flatten the organization. As long as hierarchy reigns, elders will not be in control of their own lives. And as long as departmental silos dictate the way things are done, staff closest to elders will not be able to do what they can to help elders live a meaningful life in a place that truly feels like home. A nursing home can have a warm appearance, a friendly atmosphere, do fun and interesting things with its residents, but unless the decisions of daily life are made by elders and those closest to them, the culture is still one of one-size-fits-all-this-is-just-the-way-it’s-done.

Elders can’t make choices in the moment when what they want needs to be OK’d by three different people, one or two of whom may not even know them. One of the things we all enjoy about being in our own homes as opposed to work, a hotel or even at a friend or family member’s home, is the freedom to make spontaneous decisions, to have things the way we like them and go about our day according to our own schedule.  A household or neighborhood team comprised of staff from all disciplines that makes decisions together and is responsible to one another can most effectively meet elders needs. Cross-training and versatile workers within the team allow more people within the team to respond to the elder in front of them instead of having to go find someone else who can do the job. It can also be a great benefit at the busiest times of the day when extra help is needed in one particular area.

Only when the household or neighborhood teams have the responsibility, authority and flexibility to make decisions can they reach their full potential for giving individualized care and creating true home for the elders they serve.

The process of flattening the organization is not something that is done overnight. I suggest 3 steps to move forward with this process.

  1. Make your organization one of Shared Leadership.
  2. Use Learning Circles to help staff communicate.
  3. Create an environment of High Involvement.

We will go into more detail about each of these steps in upcoming blog posts. Please share your own challenges and successes in flattening the organization in the comment section.

LaVrene Norton is the founder of Action Pact, an organization devoted to changing the culture of care environments for elders – making it possible to live in a homey place & have a good day every day, no matter how frail one becomes.  Action Pact has assisted care organizations on their journey to households since 1997. Norton is co-author with Steve Shields of In Pursuit of the Sunbeam, and publisher of a variety of educational books, workbooks and videos focusing on the Household Model.