Eden Alternative

Calhoun County Medical Care Facility
An Eden Alternative® Registered Community

History of the Eden Alternative

After attending Harvard Medical School, Dr. Bill Thomas was happy to be working at a local emergency room in New York. He received a phone call one day from the local nursing home administrator asking him to serve as their Medical Director. He laughed and said “no thanks.” It was soon after that he had a bad day at the hospital and decided to accept the offer as Medical Director of the nursing home.

Shortly after taking the job, Dr. Thomas was making rounds when he met a woman who had a rash on her arm. In his best doctor voice, he leaned down and screamed in her ear, “Hello, I’m Dr. Bill, what can I do for you today?” He will never forget the beautiful blue eyes that stared up at him as she reached up to draw him closer, and he will never forget the words she whispered, “Doctor, I am so lonely.”

As he continued making rounds with his patients, he began to realize that many of them were suffering and dying, not from medical ailments, but from plagues he identified of elders living in a long-term care environment: loneliness, helplessness and boredom.

When he searched his medical texts and found nothing to help, he began thinking about a different kind of nursing home, a true habitat and a place where people could live and not just wait to die.

Dr. Thomas and his wife Jude began Edenizing their first nursing home in New York in the early 1990′s with great results. They developed 10 key Principles to the Eden Journey and they have given us a new way to imagine and see our nursing home communities, which in turn takes us back to the way humans are supposed to live.

Most are familiar with the story of Eden and making an environment for people. In the story, the very first place where humans were supposed to live was a beautiful garden — The Garden of Eden. This is the story that inspired Dr. Thomas to do something to make nursing homes a better home for residents and staff. From the plagues he witnessed, he created a new philosophy of how nursing homes should be operated.

Combating the Three Plagues
Through staff and resident driven initiatives, we are working to better identify when residents are suffering from Loneliness, Helplessness, and/or Boredom.

The opening of our neighborhoods have allowed both residents and staff to develop closer relationships with one another. Staff are learning that it is okay to sit down and play a game of cards, work on a puzzle or have a snack and chat with residents when able. We as staff are working to become less task-oriented as we progress, and more resident-centered which aids us in combating the three plagues.

We may never completely eliminate the plagues, but will continue to fight them to the fullest of our abilities.

The Ten Principles of the Eden Alternative

  1. The three plagues of loneliness, helplessness and boredom account for the bulk of suffering among residents.
  2. A Resident-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. Residents deserve easy access to human and animal companionship.
  4. A resident-centered community creates opportunity to give as well as receive care. This is the antidote to helplessness.
  5. A resident-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. A Resident-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 Residents on into the hand of those closest to them.
  9. Creating a resident-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.