Building Companionship and Community
Community refers to those around us with whom we live and interact with in carrying out our daily lives. For Individuals, this also includes caregivers with whom they share a mutual feeling of companionship, feeling safe with one another, and showing value toward each other.
As we teach companionship, we are constructing the foundation for community. Our goal here is to create a sense of responsibility for community life and to teach those we serve how to access community resources. We also teach how to contribute to one’s community through service and work. Building companionship within community reflects our understanding that it is good to do for others, be with others, and receive assistance from others. We can enhance quality of life by developing companionship and a sense of community through our interactions of caregiving.
As we initially assess an Individual’s understanding of companionship and sense of community, the Individual is asked what community means to them, and what they would like their community to provide. It also helps assess what we, as caregivers, can do to help the people we serve to build the community of their choice.
Quality of Life Values
Dr. John McGee identified eight basic values that help define Quality of Life. Within these values, there is no fixed hierarchy. Everyone has his/her own priorities, based on life experiences and the culture in which he/she lives. After a ‘Values Assessment’ has been completed, a personal support plan can be created for the Individual. This plan guides caregivers in providing the best possible services by utilizing the strengths and talents of the Individual and respecting the vulnerabilities and barriers that exist in his/her life.
Quality of Life Elements
An important aspect of an Individual’s overall Quality of Life plan includes elements that relate to medical, dental, financial, mobility, personal safety, communication, etc. An ‘Elements Assessment’ helps to assess an Individual’s possibilities and vulnerabilities in these areas.
Quality of Life Assets
As we develop a Quality of Life Plan for an Individual, it is important to identify his/her possibilities and vulnerabilities. A ‘Life Assets Assessment’ highlights a person’s gifts that strengthen building companionship and community. Once we understand where a person is in terms of feeling safe, engaged, and valued, and returning valuing, then we know where to begin the mutual change process.
The Quality of Life Plan
After completing the four assessments (above), an Individual’s Quality of Life Plan can be designed and developed, with consideration given to the past and present QoL Values, Elements, Assets, and Sense of Companionship and Community that guide a plan for the future. The QoL Plan addresses an Individual’s ISP goals by outlining the specific strategies and daily activities crucial for enhancing the overall quality of his/her life.
Gentle Teaching uses the relationship between the Individual and the caregiver as the foundation for teaching. When a trusting relationship has been established, the Individual learns to value the skill being taught from valuing the relationship with the caregiver. Unlike a token-economy system, the learning process has meaning. Teaching the Individual to experience companionship is more important than controlling his/her behaviors.
Before we develop teaching goals for an Individual, it is important to assess the Individual’s Quality of Life Values, Sense of Companionship and Community, Quality of Life Elements, and Quality of Life Assets. From this, an Individual’s plan outlines both formal and informal teaching directions. The formal direction helps the caregiver to teach the Individual the particular goal. The caregiver values, teaches, and protects the Individual during the teaching process, and, in return, the Individual reciprocates the value of the teaching. The informal direction outlines meaningful daily activities that support the teaching goals.
Writing about Quality of Life
Caregivers spend valuable time documenting and writing about their interactions with the Individuals they serve. Choosing which words to use is very important to the overall meaning of what is written. This can be a challenging task, especially when dealing with difficult behaviors or situations. Therefore, it is important to focus on the positive aspects of a person’s day, while at the same time, constructively noting improvements that can be worked on in that person’s quality of life.