This has been at busy week at St. John’s in Rochester. St. John’s is an Eden Alternative home, and we are also building the nation’s first community-based Green Houses. On Tuesday, we held an open house for benefactors of our Green Houses, which are slated to open in the early fall. Eden Alternative/Green House Founder Bill Thomas and Eden CEO Chris Perna stopped by, and Bill reminded us that this incredible step is just the beginning of a new world of elder care.
My good friend Emi Kiyota was also in town. She spoke at Geriatric Grand Rounds about her new non-profit Ibasho (www.ibasho.org) and the work she has been doing to plan age-valued communities around the world.
At a special event at St. John’s on Wednesday night, Emi shared her disssertation work from 10 years ago, when she became a nursing home resident for 3 weeks, her arm immobilized in a sling (to mimic the loss of use seen with a stroke) and receiving care from staff just as it is provided to our elders. Emi’s revelations were heart-rending and startling to everyoine in attendance except for the dozen elders in the room, who nodded emphatically as Emi discussed the learned helplessness and erosion of dignity she felt in leading a dependent life.
We are also going public this week with our new organizational design plan for the rest of St. John’s Home, which will help strengthen Eden’s person-directed care philosophy by creating empowered teams of staff and elders supported by a Guide, and removing much of the overlay of the traditional departmental structure. Though we are not moving to universal workers at this stage, this design actually leap-frogs the Green House in that many of the clinical staff–nurses, nursing assistants, social worker, dieticians, therapeutic recreation, as well as housekeeping and some dining staff–will also report to the Guide and work in close daily collaboration with the elders. We plan to use up to a year to make this transition, creating a path for change management, education, team building and “operational readiness review” before we go “live”.
Change can be hard, but I am reminding my co-workers of the drastic changes we expect our elders to make every day, when they move into our nursing home. After all, who has more capacity to change, our elders or us? It’s our duty to shoulder much of the burden of change if we wish to truly create a life worth living for all.