Green House Blog

Keep it Simple: How We’ll Take Aged Care Challenges

Evermore Founder Sara McKee writes about what she learned at the recent Green House conference about how we can tackle aged care challenges by keeping it simple, and the importance of celebrating differences. (Reposted from Evermore Blog)

I recently attended the annual Green House  conference in Fort Lauderdale. It was fantastic to be in a T-shirt in November – having left rather chillier conditions back in Manchester.  It was also great to be with hundreds of believers from across America who are delivering a better way of living in older age, every day.

I was the only English person at the conference alongside fellow international explorers from Panama, Brazil, Bermuda, Israel and Singapore. However, if you take the vast expanse that is the United States, then it felt truly multicultural with folks from Alaska to Colorado, Pittsburgh and Arkansas.

Whilst the language of the conference was English, this multicultural dimension made us all recognise our differences in culture, approach and, indeed, language. We may all be speaking the same words, but do we really understand each other’s meaning?

James Wright delivered a challenging keynote on diversity and inclusion, highlighting our scientifically proven hidden biases. He explained how we operate on an unconscious level which makes us have implicit preferences.  A book he referenced about the topic is ‘The Hidden Brain’ and I’m going to read it to find out more.

One example he gave was how we make assumptions based on accent. He said that coming from South Carolina, he’d trained out his southern drawl as that made him sound stupid in the eyes/ears of others. Good News for me was that he said the English accent was universally seen as the smartest sound!

He was keen to point out that it doesn’t make us racists or any particular “–ists” – it simply is how we’re made! His mission is to move from talking about equality to equity – a discussion deserving of a blog of its own.

What can we learn from all of this?

We had gathered at this conference, many colours, ages and backgrounds to talk about the challenges we all faced with an ageing population and a shrinking workforce. Yes, we had similar challenges, we could share experiences and our different solutions. And yet we were not all the same.  That’s where it felt we had real strength. If we celebrated our differences and built on our joint appetite for collaboration, we could continue to innovate and create new opportunities for living well in older age.

James shared this clever video which reinforced the point for me: “Be together, not the same

My take away from the conference – Keep it Simple:

  • Simplify our approach to engaging with customers – what matters to you? Not what’s the matter with you!
  • Simplify our language – let’s get rid of the jargon. We talk about ‘convivium’ at the heart of our family households, yet it’s hard to say and even harder to spell – so let’s talk about sharing our life together and breaking bread.
  • Be consumer driven – let’s develop and deliver services that are focused on what our customers want. Sounds obvious, but often feels like rocket science in the world of aged care.
  • Translate connectedness, meaning, purpose and exercise into everyday activities. Not make each element someone’s task.

I’ve come back from the conference feeling re-energised and determined to maintain our international collaboration as we can all learn and build new world thinking together.

Reflections on Culture Change from the United Kingdom

Recently, change agent and founder of Evermore, Sara McKee, spent time with Green House team members and Dr. Bill Thomas.  She visited a Green House home, and dreamed about how the inspiration of The Green House model could meet the needs of elders and direct care staff in the United Kingdom.  Read her reflections below.  

In the relentless pursuit of keeping institutional behaviour at bay

Is it any wonder that the turnover of care staff is upwards of 30% in most organisations in the sector; when the opportunity to do what they really want – care for individuals – is often denied them?

Time limits, task-based activity, cost pressures – all take away the pleasure to be derived from work with such a purpose. Add to that the insecurity of having low pay with zero hours contracts, and any job role starts to look more appealing than care. This is probably why care worker posts are generally the last on the list offered in a Jobcentre.

It really doesn’t have to be this way.

With the right leadership we can achieve amazing things. We have to get the basics right (pay/conditions) and then we have to enable people to flourish. As Daniel Pink explains, people are motivated by Autonomy, Mastery & Power.

That’s what gets us up in the morning, and I’m hopeless at early mornings. Seeing the art of the possible in front of me on a recent trip to The Green House Project in the US, and I’m bouncing out of bed. Hector, my trusty hound, is finding that change in arrangements rather alarming!

My point is simply this: we will fail if we carry on trying to make the current institutions work by incremental change. As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Time for a game change.

We’re taking the lessons from the Green House Project where staff have autonomy, become masters of their craft and have real power to advocate on behalf of their elderly residents. We will make sure that those in our care get to make the decisions, keep control and continue to contribute. By helping each other, we know they’ll stay active, engaged, be happy and well.

We don’t need task-based hierarchy to make things work. Let’s face it, the current system is expensive, unproductive and adds nothing to the quality of service.

We need enthusiasm, capability and energy. We need to recruit from across the age spectrum and train staff to create warm, domestic and convivial environments where really meaningful conversations take place. That way “person-centred” care and other useless jargon can be thrown away as real relationships are fostered. We do this by focusing on smaller numbers of people and enabling staff to be close to their elderly compatriots.

Less time focused on the P&L and more time on creating the place to live a happy life. My experience across various industries has shown me that if you do the right thing well, the money follows because people want to be a part of what you’re creating.
It’s not a pipe dream or an aspiration. It’s what we need to do and we intend to show how it’s done.

Big thanks to my community of colleagues in Washington, DC who continue to motivate and support me to be the game changer. And it is with them that I join in our relentless pursuit of keeping institutional behaviour at bay.