Socialized medicine — the way to save lives

James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

Chalk up another one for that famously disruptive New Yorker who crisscrossed the nation the last two years, speaking to big crowds, imploring change. His words are proving prophetic again.

Bill Thomas, M.D., probably doesn't know any other way. Last year, his Age of Disruption Tour attracted thousands from March to November. That's what campaigning for aging-care changes for several decades will do for you.

But it's not just Thomas' recent work that draws attention. Some of his oldest advice gathers more adherents each and every season. Like at the beginning of each year, when the spotlight intensifies on loneliness. (As if a majority of seniors aren't vulnerable to sad feelings of solitude the rest of the year. But I digress.)

Thomas first attacked the “three plagues” — loneliness, boredom and helplessness — back in the 1990s when he formed the Eden Alternative.

They are, of course, as worrisome as ever today. Whether you're a caregiver in one of Thomas' patented Green House facilities or not, these three demons are your enemies too. Save your residents from them and your job becomes a lot easier.

Loneliness in particular should not be viewed as somebody else's problem, which is the way it is so often portrayed. You might not be lonely, but that doesn't relieve you of loneliness-busting duties. Especially when the antidote — being even a little bit social with anyone in need — is so easy to do. Administering this fix multiple times a shift could be your easiest task of the day. Call it a new kind of “socialized medicine.”

A striking number of articles about the dangers of loneliness has popped up. Just before New Year's Day, Good Housekeeping  drew wide interest by highlighting the benefits of socialization with the elderly. The same day, The New York Times' wonderful Paula Span wrote “Loneliness Can Be Deadly for Elders; Friends Are The Antidote.” She cited numerous studies showing health-damaging connections to loneliness while also illustrating charming interactions between happily interdependent seniors.

Keep up the discussion. Start new discussions with your residents.

Why not get in the habit of creating a looping, positive message — for the benefit of your residents, co-workers and family members — as part of your personal 2017 soundtrack?