A great example of leadership in aging

Our ProAging meeting last week at The Fairfax in Ft. Belvoir, VA featured Ben Cornthwaite, the 30 year old administrator of the nursing home at Greenspring, a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Springfield, VA.  You can read about some of the details of his project here.

Over 100 senior-serving professionals were treated to Ben’s inspirational account of living as a resident in the nursing home that he manages to better understand how care is delivered and serve as a platform to help him improve as a leader.

The environment, setting, and approach to Ben’s immersion was different from my project. So I was excited to be able to apply his observations to the framework of the 8 Ps that I used to reflect on my project to expand my insights. Nora Nagatani also posted a entry on her blog sharing some of her thoughts about Ben’s presentation, click here to access.

A few of the highlights of Ben’s presentation included:

Ben talked about how he was intimately familiar with so many aspects of the community that he has managed, but was surprised at how much he now saw through the eyes and perspective of a resident.

While Ben was always impressed by the staff and people in his community prior to this project, he was even more impressed from his new vantage point as a resident.

Ben went through this experience living in a wheelchair, and he shared some video of him navigating daily aspects in his room (going to the bathroom, getting clothes out of a dresser and closet) with a bit of difficulty due to the design and layout of the room. He was not fully aware of these issues because the staff does such a good job in taking care of the residents needs. He raised the issue that improved access and design can enable residents to take care of their own needs better if they choose.

Ben helped me become more aware of how our industry can often strive to do everything for our residents and clients, whether they want the services or not. I have a better awareness of how this can sometimes take away one of our primary purposes in life to help ourselves and others.

Ben shared that they were able to improve access with some very inexpensive modifications and by simply moving furniture around.

Ben also gained a new awareness of the disruption that a resident faces in periodic checks and medication administration during the middle of the night. Again, it represents our desire to help our residents without a full awareness of all the implications. Ben commented several times in his presentation that residents and families accept a lot of these practices as “the way it is” and don’t voice their concern or realize that could be an alternative. It speaks to the power that the system and management can unknowingly place over residents.

Again, Ben shared that after reviewing check in and medication disbursement practices they were able to easily enhance and respect the residents lifestyle and independence better.

At the beginning of Ben’s presentation he shared that a “compliment” that he and other nursing homes might receive is that “this place is great – it doesn’t smell”. He pondered how we would all feel if someone came into each of our homes with a similar “compliment”. Ben’s approach and positive attitude to better understand the care that he and his team are providing is remarkable in our industry. We need to celebrate the pioneering efforts of leaders like Ben . . . and encourage others in his position to learn and follow his example.

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