I want to acknowledge the round of painful stories that continue to emerge from aged care and retirement living contexts. It is always hard to hear about times when we have not done our very best, when we have compromised the humanity of ourselves and others, and when we have not been honorable.

I am using ‘we’ for a couple of reasons. One, is that as people working in the aged care and retirement living sectors we are all connected by whatever happens for older people in the sector, directly or indirectly. If we just turn our back on poor practice we do not make a positive difference for those people who are being impacted by the situation.

We need to work together to create and maintain a culture in the aged care and retirement living sector where poor practice is unthinkable. 

Secondly, I use ‘we’ because we all have the potential to do things that are not in the best interests of older people, or to act contrary to our own values. The potential for us, as humans, to harm others whilst telling ourselves we are doing what is required is well known. It is difficult to be honest with ourselves about this. If we do not ‘own’ this potential in each of us then it becomes harder to keep ourselves on the right track. This is as much about individual practices as it is about the need for checks and balances, for good governance, in our organisations.

Given this potential to do harm, and the challenges of our work, regular spiritual practices have an important role. They keep us close to our heart, connected with our values, with what matters most, and build our resilience for those tough decision points when we might need to say “no” to power. I will write more another time about what these practices can look like.

As we reflect on the emerging set of painful stories from aged care and retirement living, even if we have hundreds of positive stories about great care, it is an opportunity for each of us to be totally honest with ourselves, our colleagues, and our managers. Are we working for the best interests of the older person? Are we honest about our mistakes? Do we respond with compassion, respect and truth? Can we be trusted with these people’s lives? If the answer to all of these is yes, then pause to savour what you have. Celebrate the strength, commitment and humanity of your teams. If any of the answers are no, then take action today to turn the tide. It may take courage, but it is absolutely the right thing to do. As Maya Angelou says, you know what’s right. Just do right.

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn

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