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Focusing on What Works

When we face a difficult situation, we usually make a list of what doesn’t work in order to find a solution. Take for example a person in loss of autonomy who is moving to a care facility. The team in place takes the inventory of what the person can’t do anymore: go to the bathroom, talk, walk, remember where things are, eat alone, etc. We’re then left with a negative picture of the person, or rather a very restrictive one, albeit necessary to overcome the trials of daily life.

But do we ever take the time to make a list of what the person can still do? Of what the person still wants or likes to do? Of what still works for the person if we assist them and give them time? Then, we would have a glass-half-full picture rather than a glass-half-empty one. A more positive portrait of our loved one. A portrait that we might also share someday to those who will take them under their wings.

We often talk about giving back power to seniors in loss of autonomy to make them feel respected and supported. To do so, we need to make the list of what still works. Can my loved one still follow instructions? Help with housework? Can they still do gardening, wash a car, cook simple recipes? Organize photos? Go for short outings with their children and grandchildren? Of course, these projects will require planning and organization. It will be necessary to separate the tasks in simple steps to make sure the person remains in a failure-free environment.

Imagine a world in which your loved one feels useful, alive, capable of meaningful things. What immediately comes to mind is a decrease in depression, apathy and stress. It’s easy to imagine how it would brighten our loved one’s contagious smile.