But … Hey! I Wash My Face First!

Years ago, I read a rather thought provoking book by Robert Fulghum titled From Beginning to End:  The Rituals of Our Lives.  I was working in the world of long term care at the time.  While reading, I realized that I’d never thought much about my own rituals.  Actually, I hadn’t thought much about anyone’s rituals, including those of the nursing home and assisted living residents whom I had the privilege of serving each day.

The book addresses the importance of rituals in our daily lives – which side of the bed we sleep on, if we brush our teeth before we eat breakfast or after, if we use a two fluffy bed pillows or one flat one … We all have our own daily habits which, when disrupted, such as when we are away on vacation, can make us irritable or a bit disoriented.  These rituals are a part of who we are and help us feel in control of our day, our schedules, ourselves.

I wondered how different my life would be if I were admitted to a long term care facility.  Would I still be able to stay in my PJs on a cold winter morning reading a good book until noon if I wished?   Would I still be able to shower each morning to help start my day with a fresh outlook and, even more important, with clean hair?   Would I still be able to have a cup of herbal tea before going to bed to help me relax and dream sweet dreams?  And how would anyone know who I am and what my daily rituals are if I couldn’t tell them?  And would anyone really care …?

We Ohioans are fortunate to live in a state which is one of the leaders in an initiative aptly named “Person-Centered Care.”  The Ohio Person-Centered Care Coalition notes that it strives, as a part of its purpose, to “honor and respect the voice of elders” in long term care settings.  It describes Person-Centered Care as “…a continuing process of listening, trying new things, seeing how they work, and changing things in an effort to individualize care …”

The provision of Person-Centered Care puts the focus on the rituals, the desires, the habits of the individual resident, not care that is provided for the convenience of the staff or the institution.  It is not ‘cookie cutter’ care in which all residents are treated alike.

I can only hope that, when my time comes to live in an assisted living or nursing facility, that the staff will be trained in and truly embrace the concept of Person-Centered Care.  And I hope they remember that when they help me with my shower–I wash my face first.

– Posted by Terry Fries-Maloy

Posted in Blog, Caregiving.