It Takes a Lot of Planning to Be Spontaneous

By / Posted on May 25th, 2012

According to Allen Power’s recent blog post, spontaneity is key to meaningful engagement.  He writes:

I have often said the above words with regard to creating a long-term care environment rich with spontaneity. While there clearly are benefits to programmed and therapeutic activities, much of the joy in life comes from the ability to respond to the needs and desires of the present moment for each individual. But it’s a hard thing to do.

Our community Green Houses have been open for 10 weeks. I stopped by on Wednesday to visit an elder who was close to the end of his life. During my visit, I saw some great things going on.

After ringing the doorbell, I was greeted by Bridget, one of the Shahbazim. Inside was a tableau of normalcy. One gentleman had just arisen and was having breakfast at 10 AM. Another was watching Rachel Ray cook up something sinful. Another woman sat nearby, but was facing the window because “watching the food is too tempting”. We chatted for a few minutes, and then she said, “If you’ll excuse me now, I’m going to nap a little.” She did request a song on the piano that I didn’t know, but I was able to get her to join in on “Pennies from Heaven”.

Another gentleman was looking rather restless, moving back and forth around the dining room with his walker. As I sat watching, another Shahbaz, Brenna, came up to him and invited him to walk outside in the garden. He enthusiastically agreed and off they went.

Bridget told me that they had bought some seeds and plants to start their gardens, now that the weather was warmer. Last week, the house at 65 Sonoma met to brainstorm  a list of possible names for their gardening group. This week they voted. The winning name: Growing Alive At 65. Indeed.

All this time, my friend, who had a couple of serious infections, was receiving superb nursing care in his room from Polly. When that was completed, I was able to go in and visit with him. He was weak, but very glad for the “house call” from his former doctor. There had been a lot of discussion as to whether he could return to the community Green House home after his complicated, 5-week hospital stay, but they ultimately agreed to bring him back. He was very grateful to be able to finish his days there and everyone made him feel comfortable and welcome in spite of his illness. He passed away peacefully early the next morning.

At 65 and 75 Sonoma Drive, we have people who are sick and well, people who can walk and who cannot, people who live with dementia and people who do not. All live together in these houses. We care for people of all stripes. The principles don’t really change if you truly want individualized, person-directed care.

We have our struggles; it hasn’t all been easy, and we will continue to struggle with this new way of life. But on that morning, I saw them conquer one of the most elusive goals in long-term care, even in Green House homes: creating normalcy. Nice work!

Next week, Polly, Patricia and Kris will be representing our community Green House homes at the Eden International Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, along with Carol, Maria, Theresa and myself, who are based at St. John’s Home. We look forward to sharing more stories.

 Tell us what you think!  Read more posts like this on Allen Power’s blog at changingaging.org.