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Monday, 11 July 2011

New Inspiration

<p><em>By <strong>Linda Carmi</strong></em></p>

<p>I have been intrigued with the Eden Alternative concept of elder care since I discovered a link to Dr. Bill Thomas of Changing Aging on TGB several years ago. Dr. Thomas created EA and has outlined ten guiding principles upon what he terms, the three plagues of elders - loneliness, boredom and helplessness.</p>

<p>My involvement with elder care has been through caring for my husband. Having recently lost my husband, I have redirected my commitment to bringing this practice into my own community and beyond. Last month, I had opportunity to attend an Eden Alternative Associate training that was hosted by a registered EA facility, Salem Lutheran Home Care in Oakland, California.</p>

<p>Despite the floods of emotion that swept me during the three-day training, I found myself feeling that I had found “it,” an answer to the sad frustrations that seem to be so commonplace in our “forward thinking” society related to finding quality nurturing care for our elders.</p>

<p>Throughout the caregiving years with my husband, I had thoughts that paralleled this concept but had not been able to organize them in any reasonable fashion, much less put them to work.</p>

<p>Most of the 20 or so attendees were Salem Lutheran employees with exception of me and two others. I had occasion to seek respite care for my husband and was guided to a wonderful woman who owns two board-and-care homes in our area. I introduced her to EA and found through our ongoing relationship that her philosophy was already closely aligned with Eden.</p>

<p>She is committed to providing care with dignity for elders in her facilities. She brought one of her staff members to learn the Eden philosophy and take it back to share with others in her employ.</p>

<p>The experience was really brought home by attendance of three elders, two residents from Salem Lutheran Home and a gentleman from a facility down the street.</p>

<p>Joe, the man from down the street, happened to be at our table for all three days. In he walked each morning all clean and starched, eager to join in and be part of things, if not showing just a wee bit apprehension perhaps about being accepted by the younger folks.</p>

<p>He was clearly a poster child of the three plagues of elders: loneliness, boredom and helplessness. For those unfamiliar with EA, the premise is to create and offer nurturing antidotes to these three plagues of elders so that they feel honored, respected and continue to live meaningful lives. Isn’t that just the most wonderful idea! I’m all for that!</p>

<p>For three days we learned practical tools designed to offer ways to bring meaning to our elders' lives with brainstorming sessions, exchanging ideas and practice sessions. Each day Joe appeared and gave us his story in bits and pieces.</p>

<p>He lives in a neighboring facility and learned about the workshop from the newspaper. He picked up the phone to ask if he might attend and was invited to be a guest. Each morning he walked the short distance from his home to Salem Lutheran and with each day of involvement with others, he became a bit more animated.</p>

<p>It just made my day to see this man respond with such obvious pleasure to something as simple as connecting with others in a meaningful way. I felt sad to know that he would be returning to the “prison,” as he called it. (The ladies from Salem Lutheran invited him back and even offered to help him find a way to come live there.)</p>

<p>Joe has some obvious dementia but there was no hiding his unhappiness with his own living situation. As the brainstorming sessions played out, he became a living demo of what EA strives to change. He blossomed in our group as we encouraged him to participate, speak up and even made him the star in a skit.</p>

<p>In my opinion, the philosophy of Eden Alternative is the way that our elders deserve to be treated. Unfortunately, our society has lost sight of the many gifts that our elders bring to us with their wealth of experience through years of living.</p>

<p>I am committed to being part of the change that eliminates the three plagues and emphasizes the tremendous value of elders as they move into a phase of life that can be far from the end of the road.</p>

<p>After all, we are all elders in training.</p>


<p>[<strong>INVITATION:</strong> <em>All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. <a href="http://www.ronnibennett.typepad.com/elderstorytelling/submit.html">Instructions for submitting are here</a>.</em>]</p>

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Years ago I first became familiar with the Eden Alternative when I was researching articles on pet therapy and animals in nursing homes.

Although many places I visited had a dog or cat, it was surprising what a bird or fish contributed to the residents and how much livelier the buildings seemed.

Many of the people I interviewed were eager to tell me about the animals they had had in their lives.

As an aside, I ran across studies showing that there was less turnover in the staff when animals (resident or visiting therapy dogs and cats)were involved.

When my husband was hospitalized two years ago I requested visits from the hospital therapy dogs, but was told there were none available when we made the request. When I called rehab facilities I also asked about therapy dog visits.

Ask about these services. Bring it to their attention that you are interested.

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