The Age of Disruption 2016 Tour is a modern day American Chautaqua movement barnstorming the country in a rock n’ roll tour bus to bring communities a new and highly disruptive understanding of aging. Join Dr. Bill Thomas and crew for a day of education, entertainment and inspiration.
Columbia, SC - Apr 19, 2016
Our Time in Columbia
In Columbia, SC, Dr. Bill Thomas asked those assembled to write down the hardest question they could think of. Then he proceeded with wisdom, intellect and grace to answer them. (answers paraphrased below)
How can we get funding for geriatric programing when it receives the least funds from the hospital programing? They are coming and we aren’t prepared.
Actually, they are here and we aren’t prepared. Look around the hospital, who is there? The lack of funding is part of the stigma and prejudice associated with age. The people who commit themselves to a practice of caring for older people are also stigmatized and held in low regard. We have to start with the stigma and culture change will follow.
How do I pay for long term in home care and know that I am getting the best value and know that my loved ones needs are being met?
The answer is relationships. The best way of knowing is having strong relationships with the people involved. Relationship is your ultimate safe-guard.
How do people maintain meaningful connections as they become sometimes increasingly more isolated?
To answer this, Dr. Thomas drew on the wisdom of a 90+ year old friend of his. Her theory: Your social life is a funnel and your whole life people are falling out of the funnel, you move, change jobs, kids grow up. Stuff always changes and if you don’t keep filling the top of the funnel you arrive at a point when no one is left.
How do we change the safety narrative around elders in such a litigious society?
Dr. Thomas has recently been exploring the concept of ‘surplus safety.’ Safety is good, but too much safety is not good. What is too much safety? Too much safety is when we take away so much risk from people that their well-being is damaged. People need risk in their life in order to live in a human kind of way. Surplus safety puts safety so high on the list that personal well-being and growth is below it. We need to put safety up high and well-being one notch above it. This allows us to participate in decision making where a person’s well-being is of a higher priority than strictly objective measures of safety. People think about safety in a binary way but it is very complex, it is very fluid and we need better ways of judging it relative to well-being.
Name one policy change that would improve the lives of elders throughout the US.
Improve and strengthen social security. Social Security is the foundation of a dignified old age in our society. Our commitment to social security is the best kept promise America has ever made and going forward we actually need it more not less.
Where to find funding, I have a desire to offer affordable high quality care?
Start small, focus on the relationships, put the elders first and let the profits you make over time grow your business.
It has been said that the person who will be 150 years old is alive now, who will be their caregiver when they are 130?
Science is wonderful and extraordinary and we know a lot about artificially expanding the lifespan of fruit flies and mice and as it turns out the stuff you have to do to radically change the life span of those species is stuff humans would never put up with. The rhetoric about living to be 150 is flat out ageist scaremongering. We in America struggle to make sure there is meaning, vibrancy, love and purpose in the existing life span. The fantasy is that you are going to be young forever, surfing and bar hopping when you are 130. We haven’t made the best of what we have already, start there.
What are some of the best ways to help someone who is a caregiver of a spouse living with dementia deal with their role and reduce stress?
For the purposes of the relationship the reality of the person living with dementia is the reality. Permit yourself the privilege of living in that reality. A lot of the distress comes from one partner wanting the other one to come back and be the way they were and insisting on enforcing a reality that is only their reality. The happiest marriages where one of the partners is living with dementia is one where the other spouse rolls with it.
How can we recognize the value of direct care staff?
A lot of it has to do with language. People who work in the Green House Model of Care are called Shabaz which is a made up term since English provided no sufficient word. A Shabaz is a midwife of elderhood, they have a responsibility for creating well-being through the rhythm of daily life. A Shabaz is a partner to the nurses and the doctors and the social workers, not a subordinate. A Shabaz has a craft and a mastery of that craft that is gained through relationships with elders.
These brief answers are just the beginning! Add your voice to the conversation below.