Old people who move suddenly to a nursing home/care-assisted home without having been accustomed, can suffer devastating health consequences. In my previous life as practicing psychiatrist, I have seen, more times that I would have wanted, the sudden decline of individuals (I am talking the speed of days, not months) leading to dead after a move of such type. In all cases, the new environment was significantly more comfortable, cleaner, brighter, better attended and an objective ‘dream place’ for a vulnerable old person to be cared for. But the mind said, no thanks. And that was it. To the obvious surprise of the we well intentioned and caring family.
The same people who are introduced progressively (visiting the place many times) to the new environment, adapt much better. The mind has time to imagine life there, to create safe expectations, to imagine scenarios and to prepare coping mechanisms. That the new environment is much better, more comfortable, state of the art and with lots of trees around, is not here or there for the mind.
You don’t have to be old and fragile. Adult, ex-pats for example, transplanted suddenly to a new territory suffer more than the ones who have visited the place many times.
Another practical example. Patients, particularly elderly, needing a (planned) hospital admission for an operation, could be offered a hospital visit or, if difficult, as most times that may be, watching a video that shows the rooms, the place, how to ask for help, patients eating, seeing by a doctors, and nurses bumping into the room at midnight to take blood pressures. Not a commercial video; a copy of real-real life in video. All stressing and potentially frightening bits could be easily packaged and previewed so that the mind can prepare itself. Huge difference. Little cost.
The opposite, the shock of the completely new life coming in front of you could be very good as well as mobilizer of your coping mechanisms. If you are young, that is. It can do wonders. New light, new smells, new colours, new sounds, new smiles, new crowds, new channels, all in front, suddenly, could be incredibly mobilizing and stimulating. Even therapeutic. Excactly tne opposite to the elderly vulnerable. And here, the more the sudden, the better. I have used this as well many times in my psychiatric professional life, particularly in pervasive eating disorders in young people. I used to called the ‘shock transplant’. Always worked.
What these two extreme poles show us is that our vulnerability goes up and down, and that we have to be aware of our humanity. These fundamental, prosaic, and non rocket science observations are ones of many that the leaders need to know and reflect upon.
Leadership development, whatever that may mean, starts with a high dose of understanding our human condition. Life learning experience, that is. So is leadership.
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