By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions

During her address last week at the LeadingAge Illinois Legislative Luncheon, Randi Belisomo talked about the most common worries and fears that people who are tackling end-of-life planning have about their future care.

LeadingAge LogoLeadingAge Illinois is one of the largest associations representing providers of services for older adults. The association’s membership includes senior living, assisted living and memory care communities.

Randi is a reporter with WGN and founder and President of Life Matters Media, a not-for-profit organization that aims to be a leader in providing information about end-of-life issues and planning.

The three most common things she said she hears are:

  • I do not want to ever have to go to a nursing home.
  • I do not want to leave my home.
  • I do not want to lose my independence.

Not wanting to ever have to go to a nursing home certainly is understandable as is the desire not to lose your independence.

Here, however, is what I find difficult to understand.

Why do so many individuals have such strong ties to the house, apartment, townhome or condominium where they currently reside?

As Dorothy discovered in her journey down the yellow brick road in last week’s NBC live broadcast of The Wiz, while there is no place like home, home is not about a place or location.

And why do so many individuals fail to make changes in their lifestyle that can reduce their risk of losing their independence, especially when the loss of independence is the #1 reason people end up in nursing homes? They wait until a crisis has occurred before considering making a change.

Our senior living, assisted living and memory care communities are filled with numerous good news stories about residents who have benefited from the lifestyles we offer. Rather than losing independence, they have become more independent. They are eating and feeling better. They are socializing more and have a renewed purpose in life.

As Randi noted, what is needed is a shift in public perception. To change perception, she said, you first need to create acceptance and comfort. Acceptance comes through exposure.

To create exposure, she advised those in attendance to avoid the temptation of thinking that landing a news story with a major media outlet will do the trick. “A single news story is unlikely to create acceptance, comfort and change,” she said.

Instead, she offered the following suggestions:

  • The most consumed section in newspapers, ranking even above sports, is the commentary section. Look at writing op-ed pieces. The OpEd Project website can provide some guidance.
  • Explore the possibilities of having your residents’ stories posted on the Story Corps website. Story Corps is a non-profit organization whose mission is to record, preserve and share the stories of Americans. Two topics of special interest are veterans and memory loss.
  • Develop educational public service announcements.
  • Take advantage of the opportunities that are available in social media. Older adults and Baby Boomers, for instance, rank among the biggest users of Facebook. But remember, Randi advised, the mistake too many people make on social media is pushing to sell. Social media is about building relationships.
  • Use video in addition to written content. Videos do not have to be professionally produced or expensive. From our experience at Gardant, the video that overwhelmingly has had the most views is one of residents and staff at the Heritage Woods affordable assisted living community in Sterling, Illinois doing the Harlem Shake. It was organized by the receptionist and filmed by the Director of Maintenance using a cell phone camera.

The goal is to use stories to educate. As Randi mentioned as she concluded her presentation, “We usually don’t fear what we know.”

What are your thoughts?

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