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Posted: November 10, 2004

Professional Caregiving

Learn About the Pioneer Movement, And Step into the Future of Eldercare

Have you heard about the Pioneer Network? Has it come to your town? Recently, I was preparing class material for an adult day services course I am teaching in the master's program of the gerontology department at a local university.

The topics I was preparing to address included mission, goals, services and the populations served, programming issues, marketing, grant writing. As I pulled together my materials, I came across a movement that I had not heard much about until now. What surprised me was how strong a movement this is in some parts of the country, and yet other communities are only just becoming aware of it.

The Pioneer Network was originally called the Pioneers in Nursing Home Culture Change. It is a conglomeration of aging advocates, advocating for a change, or even more accurately a revolution, in how aging services are delivered. Or, as Megan Hannan put it in an article on nursing home culture change: ?Transformation of the entire culture of aging through education, advocacy, leadership development and resource support.?

The network began seven years ago, when some of the older models of care were being examined and determined to be out of sync with the psycho-social needs of older adults. Finding the common ground among nursing home innovators, the Network was brought together by Lifespan, a non-profit group serving seniors in the Northeast, along with the founders of the Eden Alternative, William and Judy Thomas, and other leaders in the field of elder services.

The essence of their meeting was to forge a unique approach that held in its highest priority of values and practices, a commitment to involve, engage and empower both residents and employees of nursing homes to invent healthier environments, more home-like, that enrich everyone's (nursing home residents and staff) emotional, spiritual and material needs.

Over the last four years, this group has grown and generated great energy in changing the long-term care culture. If one were to look at the variety of programs developed over the years to promote healthier care approaches and environments, one would see names such as, Person-Centered Care (Kitwood Dementia Group), the Best Friends Approach (Virginia Bell), Validation Therapy, (Naomi Feil), the Positive Interactions Program ( Sylvia Nissenboim ? yes, me), Activity-Focused Care (Carly Hellen) and many more significant efforts to reform the care environments in which seniors live.

Each of these in their own way stressed models of service delivery that put the person first, and delivered a message that quality interactions, feelings of self-worth and success, promotion of personal differences and the needs dictated by these differences were core to designing care models that were unlike those that produced isolated, withdrawn, depressed populations.

It hit me that while the movement is very active just across the river from me, in Illinois, many colleagues here in St. Louis are not even aware of its existence -- and we are separated only by a river. We need to take the leadership reigns to educate our colleagues, staff and clients with a culture change effort that promotes healthier and more respectful, responsive care environments.

The mission has now broadened beyond the nursing home industry, into any elder service in both home and community as well as residential settings. Visit the Pioneer Network's websites for your own education into this revolution that should be known to all in our industry.


Sylvia Nissenboim is a licensed clinical social worker and who has been working in the field of adult day services in the St. Louis area. She is the director of four adult care and enrichment centers for the American Red Cross and also operates a personal and professional coaching firm, LifeWork Transitions, specializing in caregiving concerns, adult day care management and other aging services, such as virtual coaching and family care giving support groups. She co-authored The Positive Interactions Program, is a national speaker, and has served as president of the Missouri Adult Day Care Association and as a member of the Missouri Governor's Advisory Council on Aging..

© 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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