A few months ago, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Bill Thomas discuss “Surplus Safety” at the Eden Alternative Conference. I sat there at the time in complete agreement with him but not really taking to heart all that he was saying until this week.
As I watched the events unfold at Myrtle Beach, my mind traveled back to his talk on safety and how we try to “mother” the Elders in our nursing homes and therefore we don’t give them continued opportunities to grow and experience life. We make things safe-too safe sometimes.
I look back on the week’s events and realize why our Elders had the time of their lives. While it was wonderful to experience the ocean, helicopters, para-sails, and the many other things they took part in, it was truly all about upside risk for them. Upside risk telling us that yes there is risk associated with what we are doing BUT the benefit of that risk is more gratifying for the individual than the outcome of the risk itself. Yes, that is what happened this week. Upside risk. If we don’t have some risk in our life, it is boring, mundane, and comparative to a bland diet.
This week Elders jumped on helicopters, para-sailed, floated on giant rafts in the ocean waters, sat on the sand and built sand castles. One Elder told me he hasn’t floated in the ocean since he was a child and had not laughed so much since then either. How amazing! Upside risk! The risk was great but the outcome was so much greater! The memories our Elders hold in their hearts are so gratifying for them and the excitement that returned to 22 of our homes last night with them will invigorate their homes. It is that excitement that will penetrate the entire environment and push everyone to move even faster towards person directed care.
As I hold tight to the memories of this year, I challenge each of you to think about upside risk in your homes. Do you make it too safe for our Elders? Do you empower them to make their own decisions and then honor them? Do you promote continued growth for your Elders? Yes, we do need safety, we do have regulations to follow but there is much that can be done within that scope. After all, we are working with people who are living, who have an opportunity to learn, to grow, and deserve the amazing chance to live life to its fullest!
Please click here for a full album of photos from our adventure!