The Humanistic Approach to Residential Support (They are humans, right?)

calm-down-i-m-only-human-2I’m often amazed how people are treated when they happen to become residents in various residential support programs or facilities. Once a person assumes the title, “resident” the rules change for him or her. Suddenly they are no longer a person with the same wants and needs that you and I have. In fact, their individual needs as a human being are somehow traded in for the “rules” of that particular facility! For example, “Breakfast is at 7:00 a.m.” Every day breakfast is at 7:00 a.m.? Well, what if the person wants to sleep in one day? I mean you and I can choose to sleep in one day, right? But, oh no, not the “resident.” The resident must be up at 6:00 a.m., showered by 6:30 a.m. and the dining room, by God, for breakfast by 7:00 a.m. Whether or not they like it is inconsequential. What matters is the facility rules…end of story.

Being a Program Administrator, I certainly understand the financial considerations of staffing, scheduling etc. But, what I can’t wrap my mind around is the lack of consideration for people not being treated like human beings. No we don’t have the staffing to man the dining room all day long, but isn’t there a better solution? It seems to me (and you may call me crazy), that the people living in our programs should be able to get up whenever they choose. And can we not figure out some alternative meal for the guy that got up at 9:30 a.m. The same sort of logic applies to bedtime. Again, what time do you go to bed? My guess? Exactly whenever you want to! Can you even imagine some 22 year old staff member telling you it is lights out at 10:00 p.m.? And we wonder why our people tend to escalate. They escalate because they are adults who have probably spent considerable time making their own choices. Just because they were forced to move to your facility does not mean they stopped being adults.¬†People with Alzheimers are still adults. People with brain injuries that are older than 18 are still adults. Elderly people in their sunset years are still adults! Something is wrong with our philosophy, I think.

How about that dreaded adult activity called sex? We have the audacity to get flabbergasted when we find resident A in bed with resident B. Moralistic considerations aside, that is sort of what adults do, isn’t it? Yet in the facility it is reportedly a “no-no!” I remember one of my staff telling me once, “Such and such is in his room with his girlfriend and they have the door shut!” (Lord help us quick!) I responded, “Well good, make sure you don’t go in there (as that is generally what the door closed symbol means!). Sure I know we can’t have some kind of hippy-free love thing going on, but we ought to take into consideration that adults have needs and who are we to stifle them? Really, if we are doing our job with a serious commitment to human needs being met, we should encourage people to get their needs met in ways that are, of course, decent and considerate of the other humans. That’s how we do it in real life, yes?

Now, here is the ultimate shocker! What about alcohol? Oh no – don’t you even go there! Again, we are talking about human beings, right? Can you have a glass of wine when you get home from work? If you are an attorney, you can have one at work (smile). What about a beer? It seems you may do so if you so desire. So, where did we ever get the idea that facilities needed to be “lock-down” centers when it comes to alcohol? We got the idea because the thought of alcohol at work just doesn’t seem right; introduces potential liability and thus we pass along that concept to people who have the misfortune to live with us. I recognize that certain “residents” are on many types of drugs. Alcohol and drug interaction is a serious thing. But, why don’t we run that idea by the treating physician? Maybe 2 beers wouldn’t make a difference? Maybe it would? But the all encompassing “no alcohol” rule, well maybe that is a little much for (here it comes) “adults!” We manage liability successfully in a multitude of realms at work like driving vehicles, safety rules, behavior support training, but when it comes to alcohol we default to – no way! It seems the same care we take in making sure Mr. Jones with the brain injury doesn’t costume too much food because his “I’m full valve” isn’t working, could be taken in making sure we regulate the alcohol intake in light of potential drug interactions. Ya think?

We need to take a fresh look at how we interact with the people in our programs. We need to stop seeing them as “labeled adults” and get back to seeing them as simply, “adults.” Human beings require a humanistic approach and the sooner we can make that happen, the better we become at providing true residential support!

Written by an adult for adults…

 

 

 

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