‘Who am I’ is an initiative of Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre that encourage residents and staff members to get to know one another better, in line with the people-centred care approach we have embraced since embarking on the Eden Alternative journey. The objective of the Who Am I process is “to know and be known” which, according to the Eden Alternative philosophy, is an important domain of well-being. Having your identity & history as a unique individual acknowledged and affirmed by others, and being well known, is one of the main contributors to a person’s sense of well-being. Who you are and what you are is as important as the physical care you receive.
The first part of the Who Am I process consists of interviewing a resident and staff person from one of the wings. I have a chat with them, for example, about their backgrounds, families, previous occupations, memories of growing up, how they met their spouse, how they would describe their personality, what are their hobbies, interests and meaningful activities; favourite things in terms of colour, foods, drinks, books, music, movies, animals sports etc.; simple pleasures, proudest achievements , dreams and wishes. I sometimes even ask them what they would do with the money if they won the Lotto!
I then write up their story, take their photo, and put it all in an A4 format. Once receiving their approval, their story is printed out in colour and laminated. The second part of the Who Am I, is when we gather together for tea and share the resident’s and staff’s story with all the other residents and staff on a particular wing. We sit in a learning circle formation and each story is read out, with pauses to discuss certain aspects further and to ask the others what their favourite things, simple pleasures and meaningful activities are. Once the Who Am I session is finished, the resident’s story is put on his/her door; the staff’s story is put up in a special place on the wing.
I have actually seen staff crowding around certain stories, wanting to read it for themselves, and almost without exception, Elders and staff alike have come out of these sessions visibly uplifted and jolly. There is genuine interest in each other’s stories. They learn from each other’s wisdom & life experiences and just generally get to know one another better. In addition, the information found in the stories can be used to help engage more meaningfully with each other, and to explore new possibilities to initiate joyful experiences & simple pleasures.
It has been an absolute joy and privilege to be a part of Who Am I.
Debbie Christen, Rand Aid, Manager: Recreational Programmes