Exploring the Eden Alternative

There are many organizations focused on improving the lives of our elders.  Some are focused on medical conditions, such as MS or Parkinson’s or various forms of dementia.  Others aim to improve the specific skills that family or professional caregivers need in order to support elders’ Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).  Still others support the caregivers themselves, to deal with the emotional and physical strain of the role they perform.  At Support For Home, we applaud and support them all.

The Eden Alternative organization takes a different approach, altogether.  It is focused on an area that we feel is badly neglected by most home care and senior care organizations.  That is the fact that for far too many of our elders, the “social calendar” tends to shrink, as does our view of the world.

We are not (at this time) members of the Eden Alternative, but there is much they have to say that resonates with our own goals for elder care through in-home care, starting with Vision: To eliminate loneliness, helplessness, and boredom and Mission: Improving the lives of the Elder and their Care Partners by transforming the communities where they live and work.

The organization puts forth ten principles which support the Vision and Mission statements:

1.    The three plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom account for the bulk of suffering among our Elders.

2.    An Elder-centered community commits to creating a human habitat where life revolves around close and continuing contact with plants, animals, and children. It is these relationships that  provide the young and old alike with a pathway to a life worth living.

3.    Loving companionship is the antidote to loneliness. Elders deserve easy access to human and animal companionship.

4.    An Elder-centered community creates opportunity to give as well as receive care. This is the antidote to helplessness.

5.    An Elder-centered community imbues daily life with variety and spontaneity by creating an environment in which unexpected and unpredictable interactions and happenings can take place. This is the antidote to boredom.

6.    Meaningless activity corrodes the human spirit. The opportunity to do things that we find meaningful is essential to human health.

7.    Medical treatment should be the servant of genuine human caring, never its master.

8.    An Elder-centered community honors its Elders by de-emphasizing top-down bureaucratic authority, seeking instead to place the maximum possible decision-making authority into the hands of the Elders or into the hands of those closest to them.

9.    Creating an Elder-centered community is a never-ending process. Human growth must never be separated from human life.

10.    Wise leadership is the lifeblood of any struggle against the three plagues. For it, there can be no substitute.

At our home care agency, we will be exploring these principles and how the Eden Alternative, which really began in the skilled nursing and “nursing home” / retirement communities environments can be applied to in-home care.  We’ll keep you posted.

Best wishes, Bert


2 responses to “Exploring the Eden Alternative

  1. Bert,
    I applaud you addressing a very difficult subject. As an old rehab nurse ( as in seasoned) I really find that the disciplines of occupational, music and activities therapies are ignored in the home environment, because of reimbursement issues.
    These are vital and essential to alleviating the loneliness, helplessness and boredom seniors face.
    I really feel that providing education to the families is key. Education of resources, ideas , support and guidance is the key to successful aging at home.
    I applaud your agency’s philosophy and embrace the concept. Kudo’s to you. Please keep me informed of the approaches and strategies you will be implementing.

    I hope you will share them with me on my site. Together, we can make a difference, one change at a time.

    Diane Carbo RN


  2. Diane, thanks very much for your comment. I absolutely agree that embracing the Eden Alternative principles is harder in home care than in facilities. Your point about the families being key is right on target. We are going to be talking about tactics to address that challenge.


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