Book Review – The Shift

Through years of caregiving for family members through late stages of life and volunteering for multiple senior services organizations, I’ve spent some time at nursing homes.  Often these visits have been difficult as I’ve watched these facilities care for my relatives with staff who were frequently overworked, or sometimes not invested in their work.  After reading the book, The Shift: How Seeing People as People Changes Everything by Kimberly White, I have a new perspective on how health care can be done differently.

Ms. White describes how an organization in California (which she doesn’t identify specifically by name) has created a new health care paradigm, based on the work of the Arbinger Institute.  The basic idea is to “see patients as people, no matter how grumpy or old or compromised by dementia they are.”   It’s also to recognize that a person’s “opinions and thoughts and wisdom and value are not diminished by the slowing of their bodies.”  The ‘shift’ referenced in the book’s title occurs when we “stop seeing people as objects and start seeing them as people.”

First, you have to envision that it is possible to health care to be delivered in a different way than what we have probably experienced.  Second, you have to be able to change from an “inward mindset” to an “outward mindset.”  The inward mindset focuses on yourself and sees others as objects;  the outward mindset focuses on others and sees them as they truly are.  Also, it helps to recognize that many staff members at nursing facilities “find joy in helping those who could not help themselves.”

At some time in our lives, most of us will need to comfort someone who has been compelled to move to a nursing home due to physical or mental incapacity.  And it’s likely that many health care facilities won’t be run by the type of organization described in The Shift.  However, it is encouraging to learn that there is a different approach which treats people with respect and dignity.  Take the time to read this wonderful book, and learn more about the principles of the Arbinger Institute.  As described in my recent post Why a Senior Is Not Only What You See,  when you look at a person, what you see on the outside isn’t all that there is.

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