In this week’s episode of LTC Heroes, we hear the insights of Dr. Bill Thomas, Founder and Chairman at Minka. Minka provides beautifully designed, sensibly-sized homes for seniors to live in. The company was developed based on the notion that people of all ages deserve to live in a place they love and in a manner they love.
As well as Minka, Bill has founded several other projects, including The Eden Alternative and The Greenhouse Project, dedicated to improving the lives of the elderly. In the episode, we learn more about these projects.
Bill is known for being critical of the long-term care industry, since he believes seniors should be able to live higher-quality lives than they do. He believes that elders should be able to have a great life. He supports people who make it their life’s work to help elders achieve this.
Bill is proud to do things differently when it comes to taking care of seniors in his projects. In the episode, Bill expands more about his views and his somewhat controversial opinions on the long-term care industry. His belief when it comes to the long-term care industry is, ‘If you want to have impact you don’t give excuses. And you don’t accept them.’
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Rapid Fire Q/A
Do you have any uncommon hobbies?
I don’t know if it’s uncommon, but I row. I have a boat that’s 22 feet long and 12 inches wide. When I was younger, I loved bicycling and actually rode from San Francisco to Boston and all around New England. But honestly, as I got older, I got less trusting of car drivers and looked for something new. So I picked up rowing as a way to enjoy the world.
If you could change one thing today about long-term care, what would it be?
I would eradicate the concept of long-term care. It’s patriarchal and patronizing and dehumanizing. We don’t put the focus on the person. We put the focus on ourselves.
Secondly, the term is really redundant. You can be kind to the person in line with you at the grocery store. Yes, you can be compassionate. You can have these emotions, but really caring for another person implies a long-term relationship.
Long-term care is trying too hard to explain itself. It implies something that’s often not true because we don’t actually do long-term care most of the time. We do short care, episodic interventions based on documentation between strangers. That’s mostly what happens. It isn’t care, really.
Are you optimistic about the direction of the industry?
We’ve been changing all along. We’ve been doing better all along. We’ve been improving the autonomy and dignity of people. We have a deeper understanding of dementia than we had 30 years ago. So I think we’re going to keep improving.
What is The Eden Alternative?
In brief, The Eden Alternative is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating environments for older people to live in that are more like gardens and less like hospitals. They do that work worldwide. It’s founded on a belief that when we know better, we do better.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Sometimes I think I would have been more effective if I had had greater tolerance for those who resisted change.
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