Resource Equality for Elders

The elderly are a traditionally underserved population when it comes to health care issues. Elders’ decisions and values are not necessarily respected on their own terms. They are frequently sidelined from the general population. Often, elders are not given the services to accomplish their goals. Orchard Cove seeks to upend this trend by providing residents with the resources and support they need to actuate their goals or potential. For example, the vision board activity provides the residents with an opportunity to reconsider their goals and desires and in doing so gives them a stimulating environment. It enhances their sometimes dull and isolating environment. Stimulation and personal fulfillment should not be a privilege, but rather something that is accessible to all. Orchard Cove strives for that every day.

Fitness center at Orchard Cove. Many classes are offered so residents can be healthy and reach fitness goals.

The Vitalize 360 program promotes the change in this social justice issue one step at a time. We gauge this change by the number of clients reached per month through the program and have found that we have significantly enhanced their quality of life via goal assessment and thoughtful conversation.

Picture of the vitalize lounge, a place in between the fitness center and my supervisor’s office where residents can meet up and play games.

The Vitalize 360 coach supports this issue by guiding residents in leading healthy, fulfilling lives. First, the vitalize coach has a meaningful one-on-one conversation with a resident. Along with discussing the resident’s daily routines, issues, and interests, the resident discusses what matters most to them with the coach. The worksheet helps the resident to narrow in on what matters most to them in life. I have sat in on several of these meaningful conversations now and have seen a range of answers to this important question. For many, it is family that matters most, while for others, retaining as much independence as possible is most important. I am constantly reminded that each person has his or her own preferences that should not be assumed.  

After the resident is able to define what matters most to them and has a vitalize plan, the vitalize coach makes sure that the resident has a health care proxy and knows who their agent is. The vitalize coach informs the resident how important it is to have conversations with their loved ones about not only end of life wishes but their quality of life now. Vitalize 360 emphasizes that people need to have conversations about sensitive topics including death and preferences with their health care agent. My supervisor gave me an article to read called “Death Over Dinner” that recommends having these conversations over the dinner table.

I am working with my supervisor on coming up with clear responsibilities for each person involved in the Vitalize 360 process. My supervisor is also training other staff members to be vitalize coaches for the first time, which has forced us to look at the details of the process of Vitalize 360 and sort out any kinks in the system along the way. This is helping us to create clear steps and procedures for Vitalize 360 that can be taught to the new coaches. Having meaningful conversations and strengthening Orchard Cove’s Vitalize 360 program can further change the way Massachusetts views and treats the elderly and health care.