RESIDENTIAL LTC  - The Eden Alternative

Description of the Model: 
Founded in 1991, by Dr. William H. Thomas, M.D., The Eden Alternative is one of the fastest growing culture change philosophies now to be incorporated into long-term care communities across the globe.  The Eden Alternative now claims to approximately 250 registered homes, in the United States and across the globe.  The staff and management of these homes continue to work toward meaningful person-directed care through ongoing education and a continued dedication to making life better for those in their care.

The core concept of the Eden Alternative is strikingly simple.  Dr. William Thomas, his wife Judy, over
50 Mentors and educators, and over 10,000 associates teach that elders must live in “Human Habitats, “not sterile medical institutions.  They are dedicated to eliminating the three plagues of Loneliness, Helplessness, and Boredom that make life intolerable in most of today’s nursing homes.

The Eden Alternative shows how companion animals, the opportunity to give back meaningful care to other living creatures and others and the variety and spontaneity that mark an enlivened environment can succeed where pills and therapies often fail.  Homes that have adopted the Eden Alternative typically are filled with plants, animals and are regularly visited by children.

The Eden Alternative is also about changing the culture of long-term care organizations.  The departmentalized, task orientation of the current medical model has created a culture that is characterized by pessimism, cynicism and stinginess.  By moving away from the top-down bureaucratic approach to management and moving decisions closer to the Elders, Eden organizations are rediscovering the true meaning of the sacred work of care giving.

Studies show that implementation of the Eden Alternative model of care is a powerful tool for improving the overall quality of life for those living in long-term care communities.  Also, in homes that have adopted the philosophy, there is often improved staff satisfaction and retention and significant decreases in the overuse of medications and restraints.  Most importantly, there is a higher quality of life, meaning residents complain less and there are less behavioral problems.

The Eden Alternative philosophy is centered around ten (10) guiding principles (below).  Although many nursing communities have plants, animals and children, only those organizations that are willing to commit to striving for all ten principles are considered to be Edenizing.

The Eden Alternative, Inc. is organized for the purpose of improving the quality of life and the well being of the elders who live in long-term care communities.  The Eden Alternative is committed to the task of deinstutionalizing the management patterns, role descriptions and physical environments currently used in elder care by teaching others to see these environments as vibrant and vigorous habitats for human beings rather than facilities for the frail and elderly.  The Eden Alternative’s approach also encourages a lively and collaborative process that blends a wide range of innovations and concepts into the future of elder care, including the care of other living creatures such as companion animals, indoor plants and gardens and children.  The hope is that variety and spontaneity that marks an enlivened environment can succeed where medical therapies fail.

The Eden Alternative Ten Principles:
1.The three plagues of loneliness, helplessness and boredom account for the bulk of suffering among our
2.An elder-centered community commits to creating a Human Habitat where life revolves around close
             and continuous contact with plants, animals, and children.  It is these relationships that provide the
             young and old alike with a pathway towards a life worth living.
3.Loving companionship is the antidote to loneliness.  Elders deserve easy access to human and animal
4.An elder-centered community creates opportunity to give as well as receive care.  This is the antidote
            to helplessness.
5.An elder-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 we find meaningful is
             essential to human health.
7.Medical treatment should be the servant of genuine care, never its master.
8.An elder-centered community honors its elders by de-emphasizing top down bureaucratic authority,
             seeking instead to place the maximum decision making authority into the hands of the Elders or those
             closest to them.
9.Creating an Elder-centered community is a never ending process.  Human growth should 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

Description of the education offered to support the model: 
The Eden Alternative’s educational opportunities include:
- Presentations about the Eden Alternative philosophy
- Workshops for organizations that are working toward joining the Eden Alternative registry or are incorporating other transformational change into the care of the elders.
- Training sessions on the Eden Alternative’s strategies and techniques and how they can be implemented into these communities.
Such educational opportunities are held nationally and internationally for elders, staff, families and volunteers and are conducted by the Eden founders, the Eden Home Office Team and Eden Educators and Mentors.

List of site(s) where model is active: 
Michigan is a very active state for the Eden Alternative philosophy, with 28 registered Eden homes.  Representatives from these homes gather on a bimonthly basis to network and support each other’s transformation efforts.  This group is called the “Star Forum” and includes the following nursing communities throughout the state:

Borgess Nursing Home - Kalamazoo
Burcham Hills Retirement Community – East Lansing
Calhoun County Medical Care Facility – Battle Creek
Canterbury on the Lake - Waterford
Child and Family Services of Southwestern MI – Benton Harbor
Grand Traverse Pavilions – Traverse City
Grandvue Medical Care Facility – East Jordan
Hillsdale County Medical Care Facility - Hillsdale
        Jackson County Medical Care Facility - Jackson
Kalkaska Memorial Health Center - Kalkaska
Lakeland Continuing Care Center – St. Joseph
Lakeland Specialty Hospital – Berrien Center
Lenawee County Medical Care Facility - Adrian
Lutheran Home of Frankenmuth - Frankenmuth
The Sanctuary at McAuley Place - Muskegon
Newaygo County Medical Care Facility - Fremont
North Ottawa Care Center – Grand Haven
Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital - Frankfort
Pinecrest Medical Care Facility - Powers
Portage Health System - Portage Pointe - Marquette
Sanctuary at Bellbrook – Rochester Hills
Spectrum Health of Reed City – Reed City
Tendercare of Cass City – Cass City
Tendercare of Clare - Clare
The Sanctuary at St. Mary’s – Grand Rapids
The Village of Redford - Redford
Thornapple Manor - Hastings
Warwick Living Center - Alma
West Woods of Niles - Niles

Contact information: 
For more information about the Eden Alternative contact the Eden Home office at 512-847-6061 or visit their official website at  To speak directly to a Michigan Eden Alternative Educator or Mentor please contact one of the following:

Vicki Burlew – 231-357-0629 –
Cean Eppelheimer – 927-1875 –
Rita Ferguson - 269-945-1301 -
Wendi Middleton – 517-373-4071 –
Todd Walter – 734-542-8359 –

Residential LTC

The Eden Alternative

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Memory Support Models
Michigan Alliance for Person-Centered Communities

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