By Beth Sanders
A recent U.S. study found that social isolation and loneliness are major health risks---as bad or worse than chronic illness, obesity, smoking 15 cigarettes a day, or alcoholism. This report joins a host of other recent studies, revealing what those of us on the culture change journey already know: Loneliness is a killer. The best outcomes are a necessity in the changing health care landscape. So, addressing social isolation, sooner rather than later, is vital to your organization’s success.
Organizations practicing person-directed care understand that people need opportunities to grow through the development of meaningful relationships. Our connections with others also impact our sense of identity. To ensure the highest quality of life, it is essential to have a strong plan for one-on-one or small group engagement. This is the entire team’s job, whether they are clinical staff, a social worker, or focused on life enrichment. When the whole team is empowered to support relationship-building and healthy connections, everyone wins.
Story is the essential foundation for building a relationship. To build relationships, listen deeply and learn the details of their lives. Weaving life story into daily life affirms that home is where we are well-known and that the wisdom we’ve gained from 80 or 90 years of life has purpose and impact. As the foundation for quality care (and evidence for regulators of your commitment to engagement), life story provides a clear picture of the whole person – a tapestry of the people, times, and places that have shaped each person’s life.
Ask yourself and your teams the following (if you work with seniors in senior living, nursing homes, health care, assisted living, home care, home health, or hospice):
- How can we help staff, family, volunteers, and youth connect more with seniors through life stories?
- What conversations should we have to begin crafting life stories?
- How can we use the knowledge learned through life story to help those people living with Alzheimer’s Disease or related dementias?
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