Assisted Living Facility

Living independently is a particularly American ideal. Individualism emphasizes the value of self-reliance and independence. The concept of independence as individualism has progressed toward libertarianism with increasing zeal in more recent years. As a culture, we have developed the attitude that dependence, or needing assistance, is negative. Not only have we as a culture historically looked down upon those needing assistance, but we have also looked down upon care givers. Those who care for others are often regarded as unskilled, perhaps  less intelligent and/or  less educated, or without leadership abilities. They are often considered beneath the “real” workers and leaders. Historically, women have been the care givers, and when women did work outside the home (perhaps before marriage, until feminism kicked in), the jobs were usually seen as extensions of care giving–teaching, secretarial work, nursing. These were so-called “pink collar” jobs, as were other jobs that recruited women, including stewardesses, hostesses, and waitresses. When women began to have greater access to any careers, and some brave men ventured into what was known as “pink collar” jobs, some job titles changed to reflect more gender neutrality.  Stewardesses became flight attendants. Waiters and waitresses are now referred to as servers. Secretaries, usually responsible for correspondence, morphed into administrative assistants. Although secretaries were mostly female pre-feminism, the title “administrative assistant” signified a broadening of the administrative tasks and responsibilities (including project management and other administrative tasks beyond correspondence), but also signified a break from the pre-feminist association with (female) secretaries.

Now, as we forge ahead attempting to balance demands of the workplace with the demands of a home life, and we continue to expand our notions of gender and identities, we continue to wrestle with our cultural notions of independence. We still tend to equate maturity with independence– not with care giving. We still tend to equate ability with independence– not with sharing. A facility for assisted living refers to a place for those whose abilities may be diminished, and support services are available as needed without 24 hour care. We think of assisted living facilities as places designed to provide freedom and dignity for those in need of support for activities of daily living. What about our own internal facilities for assisted living–our own capacities to support one another?

We tend to not only devalue care givers and others in supportive roles, but we have even ascribed blame to them in relation to those who have suffered from addictions and behavior problems. The care givers are blamed as the co-dependents and/or the enablers. That is not to say that negative symbiotic relationships don’t exist. Of course they do,and often when dealing with destructive behaviors and relationships, we must be aware of the potential for co-dependency and enabling. But assisting living, is productive. Some people have a greater capacity for assisting and supporting than others, but like any capacity, we can learn and practice and develop. We can even elevate ourselves and others. Nurture may be part of nature, but it is also honed. We can develop our capacities to assist others, but we must also develop our awareness of the specialness of that capacity.

Living requires assistance and assistants. We delude ourselves into thinking that we are most dignified when we are independent. We are most dignified, when we give of ourselves to others and use our efforts to support others to be their best. We can develop our assisted living facility. This moves us and our culture forward.

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