The Eden Alternative in Care Communities

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The following blog explains the overall strategy and fundamental principles upon which the Rochester Presbyterian Home undertakes the care and well being of the Elders they serve. Utilizing the Eden Alternative care model is one of the many reasons RPH is an excellent choice when trying to find a place for loved ones with progressive dementia who can no longer be cared for safely at home. The specific philosophy and goals of the Eden Alternative are presented below. I hope you find the information helpful while providing hope and peace-of-mind.

In a culture that typically views aging as a period of decline, the Eden Alternative philosophy asserts that no matter how old we are or what challenges we live with, life is about continuing to grow. Building on this new paradigm, it affirms that care is not a one-way street, but rather a collaborative partnership. All caregivers and care receivers are described as “care partners,” each an active participant in the balance of giving and receiving. Together, care partner teams strive to enhance well-being by eliminating the three most challenging aspects of aging; loneliness, helplessness, and boredom.

RPH is a nationally recognized leader of memory care services and has been providing care for Elders since 1925. Focused on changing the culture of care since the early 1990’s, this approach to person-directed care initially came to life in nursing homes and has since expanded its reach to all care settings, including home care and residential care for people living with different challenges. We have incorporated the Eden Alternative philosophy into every aspect of care giving at the Rochester Presbyterian Home.

In 2002, RPH became part of the Eden Alternative Registry, which honors those organizations who have taken on the hard work of transforming their care facilities into warm home habitats. Rochester Presbyterian Home became “RPH at the Homestead” and was re-designed to provide Elders with a setting that felt like home. The nurse’s stations were replaced by living areas. Accessible kitchens and dining rooms were added on each floor and every Elder was provided a private room and bathroom. Outdoor vegetable and flower gardens, pets, and neighboring school children enlivened the way of life within the home. Eden families were created, giving Elders and their care partners the power to make decisions and define the way of life. The Homestead proved that Elder Care can be different!!

The successful transformation at the Homestead led us to the Green House project inspired by Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of the Eden Alternative. Instead of large institutions for older persons, Dr. Thomas, envisioned caring for Elders as a “family” in homes that are part of a residential neighborhood.

His vision became a reality in 2009 as we opened RPH-West, the Memory Care Residences at Cottage Grove in North Chili. Twelve Elders are cared for within each of our four adjacent homes. This model is a dramatic departure from the traditional institutional setting. There are no long corridors dotted with medication carts and adaptive equipment. Instead, Elders share a beautiful home with a central hearth a family dining room and state-of-the-art kitchen.

In addition, each home has a front porch, a secure patio and courtyard, and its own vegetable and flower gardens. Cottage Grove proved to be a perfect setting for persons living with dementia and its success led us to duplicate the model with the opening of RPH-East at Creekstone in Fairport in 2016.

Over the past twenty years, the Eden Alternative principles have inspired, guided and transformed the Rochester Presbyterian Home. To better understand the elements of the Eden Alternative philosophy, let me share the mission, vision, values, and principles that drive this unique care model. We have integrated these elements into the very fiber of how we provide care to our cherished Elders.

The Eden Alternative Mission: To improve the well-being of Elders and their care partners by transforming the communities in which they live and work.

The Vision: To eliminate loneliness, helplessness, and boredom.

Values: Innovation, Integrity, Community, Empowerment, and Passion

The direction prescribed by the mission, vision and values are brought to life by following ten key principles which guide our decisions, behaviors and the way we view our roles as care partners at RPH.

Principle One: Loneliness, helplessness, and boredom are painful and destructive to our health and well-being.

Principle Two: A caring, inclusive and vibrant community enables all of us, regardless of age or ability, to experience well-being.

Principle Three: We thrive when we have easy access to the companionship we desire. This is the antidote to loneliness.

Principle Four: We thrive when we have purpose and the opportunity to give, as well as receive. This is the antidote to helplessness.

Principle Five: We thrive when we have variety, spontaneity, and unexpected happenings in our lives. This is the antidote to boredom.

Principle Six: Meaningless activity corrodes the human spirit. Meaning is unique to each of us and is essential to health and well-being.

Principle Seven: We are more than our medical diagnoses. Medical treatment should support and empower us to experience a life worth living.

Principle Eight: Decision-making must involve those most impacted by the decision. Empowerment activates choice, autonomy, and influence.

Principle Nine: Building a collaborative and resilient culture is a never-ending process. We need to keep learning, developing, and adapting.

Principle Ten: Wise leadership is the key to meaningful and lasting change. For it, there can be no substitute.

The most amazing aspect of this special care philosophy is that it creates a unique bond of trust and commitment between our entire staff and the Elders we serve. Knowledge and experience flow in both directions creating an ever-lasting environment of love, respect and understanding.

To learn more about the Eden Alternative philosophy and how the Rochester Presbyterian Home servers Elders, please contact Nancy Smyth, Executive Director at 585.235.9900  or e-mail her at [email protected].