Dr. El’s subversive guide to culture change

Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:


Dr. El’s subversive guide to culture change

We often think of culture change as a formal process initiated by company leaders that involves setting organizational goals and moving employees in big and small ways toward those goals.

But culture change also can be a grassroots effort that shifts the dynamics between residents, staff and community, one unit at a time.

Altering expectations

As a psychologist, I’ve been trained to observe the interactions of groups of people. The current dynamics of many long-term care settings involve residents who are in the passive role of “recipients of care” while the staff members are in the active role of “providers of care.” The residents are frequently isolated from each other and from the community outside the facility. They feel bored and useless, leading to depression.

Leaders in the culture change movement, the Eden Alternative calls loneliness, helplessness and boredom the “three plagues” of long-term care. Its aim is to eliminate these plagues through transforming the culture of the facility. Another culture change resource, the Pioneer Network, refers to the need for elders to have, among other things, “purposeful living.”

These organizations and others offer tried-and-true paths to alter the dynamics of your facility, but not every setting is ready for them yet. If you’re working in a culture-change-resistant organization and find yourself yearning for a way to make a difference — today — consider the possibilities here.

Grassroots culture change ideas

• Purposeful pursuits such as knitting and crocheting

As part of a therapeutic recreation program, these crafts can dramatically shift the dynamics noted above, especially when the needlework has a point. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) Residents who are working together to make lap blankets for new residents or hats for premature infants change from being passive recipients of care to active providers of care for others within the facility and in the larger community. Industrious and engaged residents show workers that elders can contribute to the world despite their age and physical or mental limitations. (For more on this, see the Recreation audios on my website. For more on therapeutic knitting, visit stitchlinks.com.)

• An active welcoming committee

Entering long-term care is very stressful for newcomers and an effective welcoming committee is an excellent way for long-time residents to recognize their own value and share their expertise.

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Dr. El’s subversive guide to culture change

yarn in apile

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