Author Archives: Angie McAllister

Keep on Growing…Even When You Are Superman

“A Hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”     -Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve, an American actor, writer and director was widely known for playing the role of Superman in the 1978 film, Superman.  He also starred in the three Superman sequels.  However, on May 27th1995, he became paralyzed after being thrown from a horse during an equestrian competition.  His injuries left him needing the support of a portable ventilator and motorized wheelchair until his death in 2004 at the age of 52.

Did you know that Christopher got involved with horseback riding in 1985 after learning to ride for a role in a film?  At first, he was allergic to horses and had to take antihistamines just to be around them.  Later, he broke three ribs in a riding accident.  Yet his passion for horses was so strong he continued taking lessons, working with a trainer and growing his skills as an equestrian.  On the day of his accident that left him paralyzed, he was competing in eventing which is an equestrian event where a horse and rider must compete against other competitors in three disciplines; dressage, cross-country and show jumping.  He had just finished fourth out of 27 in dressage.  Christopher was about to compete in the next discipline, but was concerned about two of the jumps, but wasn’t very worried about a 3-foot jump that was very routine for his horse.  When his horse approached that fence, he quickly stopped causing Christopher to get tangled in the reins and fall from his horse. He landed head-first on the other side of the fence.

I share the story of Christopher’s accident for a couple of reasons.  First, because I live and breathe horses.  Even knowing the potential risk, I continue to take lessons and spend time with my horse as much as I can.  I’ve even been asked, “Why do you keep taking lessons and ride so much if you don’t compete?  Haven’t you been riding for most of your life? What else is there to learn?”  The answer in short is, “Everything”.  There is always something new to learn and the only way to grow is to keep practicing.  Secondly, I think Christopher’s story perfectly illustrates the Eden Alternative domain of well-being; growth.  Growth is all about developing, enriching, expanding, and evolving.  In the Superman movies, it was clear that Christopher had great physique.   He had to exercise, eat right and be quite disciplined to maintain.  As an evolving equestrian, he had to learn and develop new skills and abilities that were unique.  And, he had to also grow his relationship with his horse to be able to do the things they needed to do as a team.

Christopher could have given up after his accident.  In addition to the ventilator and the wheelchair, he required assistance and support from those around him.  It appeared that the man who was once Superman was now living with frailty.  Yet, Christopher survived surgery and extensive rehabilitation and continued to grow more new skills.   He went on to become a champion for people living with spinal cord injuries and lobbied for stem cell research.   He also continued to perfect his skills as an actor and as a writer.  If he had focused on his own decline and different ability due to his accident, we might never have had Christopher’s legacy of fighting for research or seen him appear in movies and TV episodes as an actor who lives with different abilities.

Never give up on your pursuit to learn and to grow.  Because, when we do; we begin to decline both physically and spiritually.  Our well-being and the well-being of those around us is dependent on having opportunities to learn new things and develop new skills even when we face the toughest obstacles. Over the past few weeks, I’ve absolutely loved seeing the pictures and videos from Elders, Stakeholders, family members, and volunteers who are participating in Signature’s Super Summer shared on social media.  There is so much creativity and growth to celebrate!  Keep on Growing! #SignatureSummer

 

Ryan Myracle, Culture Change Resources Coordinator, Signature HealthCARE

Focus On Strengths

During this Super Summer, the superheroes at Signature have all been assembled to meet the challenge of defeating three major villains that are wreaking havoc on our residents – Lady Loneliness, the Baron of Boredom, and the Harbinger of Helplessness!  But in order to defeat these evil foes, we must first start by identifying the unique and amazing strengths that all of us have, especially our wonderful residents!  Identifying strengths has less to do with physical capabilities, and everything to do with personality and spirit!  Are your residents funny, charming, appreciative, kind, caring, or clever?  Do they give welcoming hugs?  Do they have warm smiles?  What special skills or untapped knowledge do our residents possess?  What hobbies or interests do they have?  What victories or triumphs have they experienced?  All these things, and more, are often unrecognized strengths that they have.

Often in our industry, we operate from a deficiency-based model when we provide care to residents.  We focus on what residents cannot do, as ways to determine the care they require and even how we will be reimbursed for care and services rendered.  We document them as being “non-compliant with care”, “maximum assist x 2”, or “cognitively impaired”.  We tend to focus on what the resident is lacking, specific weaknesses and shortcomings, and problems that they may be experiencing.  From this model, as caregivers, we tend to relegate our attention to things we can fix or replace.  While this may seem a logical thing to do considering the industry in which we find ourselves, operating from this deficit-focused framework neglects to honor our residents’ strengths, ignores their resiliency, and can cause them to internalize feelings of shame, decreased confidence, declining independence, and decreased their competence.  Research and studies have found a positive link between strengths and self-esteem, noting that identification and usage of strengths correlates with higher self-esteem and more self-efficacy.  Instead of focusing on what residents cannot do, let’s change the game and begin to operate from a strength-based model, focusing on what residents CAN do!

During this first week of our Super Summer challenge, let’s help them identify their amazing strengths and empower them to become special superheroes!

Jasmine Wadkins, MSSW, CSW, CDP, BF-CMT, CCTP

Are You Faster Than A Speeding Bullet?

If you hear the names Clark Kent, Superman, Man of Steel, Princess Diana of Themyscira, Diana Prince, Wonder Woman, Steve Rogers, Captain America, Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, or The Hulk; what comes to mind? You guessed it, Superheroes! Whether you are a Marvel or DC Comics fan or not a comic fan at all, I bet these names conjure up visions of these well-known heroes and their superpowers. This week at Signature HealthCARE, we began forming a Signature Superhero League to defeat the villains of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom that COVID-19 has left in its wake! We ask everyone to join our elders in a summer-long initiative to create your own personal superhero identity!

Identity is defined as being who or what a person or thing is. Therefore, without identity, nothing would exist. Our names were given to us at birth or shortly after. They become the very foundation of who we are, and our names are often the first exchange when we meet someone. When you think of Clark Kent or Steve Rogers, you may begin to visualize their alter egos, appearance, abilities, strengths, alliances, and so on. Just as you imagine so much more than the names Clark Kent or Steve Rogers, our identities are made up of so much more than only our names.

The traditional medical model quickly identifies people by their diagnoses, needs, and titles and often focuses on what a person cannot do well. Think how crazy it would be if Superman introduced himself by saying, “Hello…red suns, high gravity, and Kryptonite are huge problems for me.” Granted, we know right away what things we should keep him away from. Yet, we lose sight of him being the Man of Steel who is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap buildings in a single bound.

We know and love Superman for his strengths and abilities. Person-directed care is all about relationships and knowing each other well. When we value individual identity and invest in getting to know each other’s strengths and what we have to offer, we become stronger together! What are your superhero powers, and how are you using them?

#SignatureSummer

 

Ryan Myracle, LAPSW, LNHA