President's Message:Joanne Alderman, September 2016

By Joanne Alderman, MSN,RN,BC,APRN, FNGNA

NGNA Members…

I want to share with you parts of A Parable of Wise Leadership and Community Building from a book titled: In the ARMS of ELDERS by William H. Thomas, M.D. This is a story’s, story…

The story begins with a young couple, he a physician and she a gerontologist. During a storm, their craft was destroyed and they awoke in a “new and different world”. During a conversation with an elder in the community, they were asked “Tell me, what are old people for?” The young woman said “There is a difference between becoming old and becoming an elder. Becoming old is a universal reality of biology; becoming an elder requires cooperation with others.” He says, “Do you realize what you are saying, Hannah? By your standard, an elder is one who relies on the support and protection of the village for survival. Thus, an elder, by definition, is a burden on the community. Is this any way to think of the elderly?” “I’m sure they’re a repository for traditions, folktales, myths, and the like.”

“As seasons pass, time does its work. The strength needed to draw water from a well slips away. The work of gathering herbs and nuts for meals becomes a burden. Slowly but surely, death steals away those whom the elder has loved long and well. As each havkeen (connection) breaks, the elder is loosened from his or her place among us. Loneliness seeps in where once it was held at bay. Helplessness slithers into the heart, into this elder who has done so much for so many! At last, boredom invades and conquers the spirit. The long, empty hours become like a stone on the chest. The three plagues are deadly, and no work is more sacred than defending our elders against them”

“The three plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom accounts for the bulk of suffering in a human community.” Another story includes how “we force the elderly to trade their independence for the help they need. Getting support means living with less freedom. That makes them fearful of asking for assistance.” When I finished reading these many words of wisdom, I found that I viewed my practice of caring for our older adults or elders, and their caregivers, in a very different way. Please take a moment to appreciate how one can learn without organized sessions of study but, to “teach a lesson by telling a story or singing a song.”

I invited Linda Bub, NGNA Conference Committee Co-Chair and NGNA LTC SIG Co-Chair to include a portion directed at our 2016 GeroFocus Conference in Indianapolis in October. “The Conference committee has been working diligently to prepare an outstanding lineup of keynote speakers, podium presentations and poster presentations. This year’s conference will have some changes including shorter podium presentations grouped by topic for increased exposure to evidenced based practice at the bedside3 and changes in the academic community to meeting the needs of students. We are very excited to have a showing of “Alive Inside” with popcorn and discussion on how to bring passion and life back to the bedside led by NGNA experts. I have been very lucky to have such a great team leading this work and putting together an outstanding conference on what was supposed to be our first “by” year. We look forward to seeing everyone there!”…Linda Bub.

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