Nursing homes are an integral part of senior care not only in Nevada, but throughout our country, and these institutions are in a state of flux, facing true revolutionary change.

Under the expert supervision of Dr. Bill Thomas, “The Eden Alternative” has taken shape. Already, some 300 nursing homes worldwide have been altered to accommodate this new vision.

The Harvard graduate in geriatrics has been a lifelong researcher of senior care and a fiery defender of new ways to improve quality of life for seniors and seniors with disabilities.

Dr. Thomas believes that nursing homes in the US are suffering from antiquated practices, chronic bureaucracy, and a business-oriented philosophy that is morally bankrupt. He says that this works to the detriment of the life experience of residents.

These are some of Dr. Thomas’ views, gleaned from his interview with Dale Bell/ PBS.

Nursing Homes Need to be Unplugged

Dr. Thomas considers American nursing homes as ailing and failing institutionally. Instead of creating a place of care for the elderly, nursing homes are service factories where people’s basic needs are dealt with methodically, and by the number, but lacking the interactive and human approach that makes the institution a home instead of a place of residence. It might be that a senior cannot safely live alone in their home anymore, but that doesn’t mean they should have to settle for an institution. They should still feel like they are being cared for physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Revolutionary Change

With the vast majority of senior Americans living in nursing homes, there’s a need to improve the quality of life of this fragile segment of our society. There needs to be a fundamental change in the way society looks at senior care.

The business pattern of profit and loss that has shaped it, needs to be replaced by a more flexible and humane approach that eschews and doesn’t feel bound to large, industrially designed buildings such as the classic nursing home setting.

Senior care should, and will, become more flexible, allowing seniors a range of options and care packages adapted to their needs and personal preferences. The arrival of seniors from the baby boomer generation is going to create a shock to the industry that will force change at an accelerated pace.

Implementing a New Vision

The Eden Alternative started in 1990, when Dr. Thomas took up a position as a doctor in a nursing home. After quickly finding a passion for elderly care; he began to observe the nursing home environment which he came to detest for its cold, impersonal, and institutionalized way of providing care to the elderly.

Thinking about this, Dr. Thomas mused on a way to provide the kind of care that he believed his patients deserved. He searched for an alternative to both the nursing home and the institutional setting.

Inspiration came in the form of a garden. He became an ardent crusader for the idea of providing seniors with a garden-like setting that would liberate them from the antiquated and oppressive institutionalization that had become the care industry.

From that simple garden grew “The Eden Alternative,” a reinterpretation of the environment that seniors live in, providing a closer link to nature, and breaking away from the rigid boundaries of the institutional setting.

Applying New Techniques

The Eden Alternative does more than provide green spaces, clean air, and amenities to residents, it does its utmost to create a HOME and a FAMILY through many revolutionary approaches and techniques:

  1. Create a healthy group dynamic amongst staff and residents alike: by treating the staff better, providing the right training, and ensuring that they want to make a career working with seniors, you create a highly specialized and motivated workforce that is very implicated and interactive with their senior care co-residents.

This is a departure from the current way of doing business, in which staff are overworked and underpaid, yet are expected to be at their best with the residents.

  1. Direct democracy: as a democratic country that has inculcated its values into its citizenry, the Eden alternative gives control back to the residents in a meaningful way. Residents can decide on their daily routines and programs, banishing the domineering paternalistic approach of today’s institutions.
  2. Nature: the garden is an integral part of the Eden garden alternative. Bringing the green back into people’s lives is a fundamental part of this. Green is life and rejuvenation. It eases stress and makes people happier.
  3. Adaptability: a commitment to growth and flexibility is essential, allowing the garden to grow with its residents in an interactive way.

A new wind is blowing. The future of nursing homes is being redrawn as we speak. With more focus on the needs, comfort, and psychological well-being of seniors, these growing changes are for the better.

If you live in the Reno, Sparks, Carson City or surrounding areas and are searching for the best type of senior care facility for your aging loved ones, contact our experienced senior care management team.