A growing number of nursing homes in Canada and the US are adopting a radically different approach to the care of older adults. The concept, called The Eden Alternative, would bring about significant changes in nursing homes, by making pets and plants a permanent and ever present part of the residents' living environment.
The Eden Alternative was developed by Dr. William Thomas, a Harvard trained family physician. The program has a mission of eliminating "the three plagues of the long term care institution - loneliness, helplessness and boredom," and to show "...how companion animals, the opportunity to care for other living things, and the variety and spontaneity that mark an enlivened environment, can succeed where pills and therapies fail."
In a typical "Edenized" nursing home, a visitor will be surprised to see dogs and cats wandering around freely, sleeping in the rooms of residents, or in many cases, on the beds with the residents. Some homes will also have birds and fish. Most, if not all, will have a variety of plants. The animals belong to the nursing home, and are carefully selected for their easy going nature and compatibility with residents.
Advocates claim that at Edenized homes, fewer antidepressant drugs are used, and both residents and employees are happier. In building this "human habitat" nursing operators allow residents to help in the care of the animals.
Those with access to the Internet, can visit the official Eden Alternative web site at www.edenalt.com
for more information.
– Originally published in the Senior's Choice Newsmagazine