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Creating a Meaningful Existence

By Barbara Speedling, Quality of Life specialist

April 11, 2013

If you are going to create a meaningful experience for someone, you have to start by figuring out what makes them tick – what is it they find meaningful in their life and why?  It may seem overwhelming to start with such a broad view, but it’s the only logical place to start – at the heart of the matter.

What makes life worth living?  The answer to that question will be different for everyone.  Some will tell you that their family is who they live for while others might say they live for their careers.  Some may evaluate the worth of their life by how much money they have, others by how much excitement they can experience and still others will judge their life’s worth by what they have done to improve life for the next generation.

So, if you are going to help make a life meaningful and worth living, you have to look deep, beyond the obvious and, in some cases, struggle to identify what matters.  Once you do however the rest, as they say, is easy.

One important rule I like to follow is to interview staff and review the medical record after I’ve met the individual I’ve been asked to assess.  I find interviews are far more productive when I take the person at face value and make my own assessment on ability and capacity based on the interview.  Without preconceived ideas about mood and behavior, without knowing great details of why the staff finds the resident’s mood and behavior a challenge, I am able to be completely objective.

Too often, staff dismisses what a resident has to say about what is causing a particular mood or behavior because they either do not take the time to listen or because they misunderstand the message.  Conditions like dementia, aphasia and brain injury can complicate the manner in which the resident expresses his/her thoughts and feelings. Unless the listener is sensitive to the complexity of the communication the opportunity to identify triggers is lost or significantly compromised.

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