In an exclusive interview with Provider, Dr. Thomas casts the vision of living in a world where the ageist slur, “elderly” is no longer a part of polite conversation. He says, “Think back in memory to the last time an older person referred to themselves as ‘elderly.’ People don’t introduce themselves by saying, ‘Hi, I’m Bob’s elderly mother.’ That’s put onto them. That’s the definition of a slur.” Dr. Bill Thomas believes that to change long term care, we need to change the larger societal attitudes toward getting old.
In pursuit of this reality, Dr. Thomas is hitting the road for the Age of Disruption Tour, “I’m going on tour again, starting in April,” [Dr. Bill Thomas] tells Provider. “I feel a responsibility to have an impact on not just long term care, but how our country views aging and how our country thinks about older people. I think that many of the issues we deal with in long term care are driven by deep, cultural misunderstandings about aging.” Part of the tour will be an old-fashioned rap session, with Thomas sitting down with leaders, that “explores new ideas, practices, and models to transform the experience of care and caregiving,” the tour’s ad copy says.
While there have been great strides to create opportunities for elders to live a life worth living, we have a long way to go… and there is always the danger of a good idea being turned into a marketing gimic, rather than the real deal. Take “person-centered care” for an example, “The problem with person-centered care,” Thomas says, “is that it’s possible for people to become satisfied with the name and to actually lose interest in the hard work that’s required to turn the name into a lived experience. The words are everywhere, but the meaning of the words is changing… What we really mean by person-centered care is relationship-rich care.”
In The Green House model, relationships are the cornerstone of success. The deep knowing relationships between elders and the direct care staff facilitates a familiarity that leads to positive outcomes, including increased workflow, cost savings, and health outcomes.
Dr. Thomas has truly made an impact on the field of aging, as the reporter says, “he is a founding father of a revolution. (How many other Birkenstock-wearing gerontologists are getting shout-outs from the Senate floor?)” As he embarks on this latest adventure, there will be new ideas shared, fires stoked, and people moved to action… bringing us ever closer to the ideal of meaningful lives for all.