A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a residential care home in the area to experience first-hand a different approach to elder care that was being trialled, based on a concept similar to the Eden Alternative. While the facility I visited is not affiliated to Eden Alternative, it functions under a similar ethos.
The Eden Alternative is a global non-profit organisation that aims to deinstitutionalise long term care facilities by changing the culture of the typical rest home. It embraces guiding principles which address the three plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom which accounts for the bulk of suffering among our elders.
What I found at this rest home was heartening. Age and ability seemed the only difference between staff and residents. The sense of family was real. Institutional lines had been blurred, and natural displays of affection were encouraged. Former necessities such as “shower rosters” had been abandoned for resident-directed choices – after all, not everyone prefers to take a shower first thing in the morning.
I was introduced to Milly, Molly and Marty – half grown kittens from the same litter. These cheeky, entitled residents made sure they got all the pats and snuggles they could coax out of their human slaves, while outside were raised veggie gardens, available to all who wanted to maintain their green thumbs.
Much staff collaboration goes into planning the ‘impromptu’ parties and celebrations that leave little room for boredom in the lives of these elders. Not all in the lounge that day seemed aware of my presence, but that just didn’t matter.
In my editorial on page 2, I stated that as a society we can do better. My visit to one of our local rest homes has sparked a journey of discovery into how the parts of our community that have been institutionalised, can begin to be reintegrated into society.
I believe it’s best for all of us.
Read more at www.bhb.nz, or Google “Eden Alternative”. Be sure to also read the article next month about Jim Battersby, whose courage and initiative has inspired interaction between two more of our social institutions – Ed.