The Alternate Eden?


One of the issues I learned in long-term care was that personalities sometimes clashed. At times, the cognitive yet physically challenged resident did not understand persons suffering from dementia or mental illness. There was no empathy from some of the residents. They felt, like I had at the beginning of Mom’s Alzheimers, that the residents suffering from a mental disease were ‘acting out’ on purpose. The constant pacing, the aggression, and the agitation could and would create conflict. I tried many times to explain the behaviours to the cognitive residents, but only some listened and had begun to end the nasty words that flew out their mouths. I should also state that some of the staff acted the exact same way. I concluded that the cognitive residents could be excused at times, but I was angry that staff acted similarly towards the residents who had limited cognitive abilities. This practice by some of the staff was not a ‘teaching moment’; it was lack of education and too little staff on the floors.

Most of my days at this facility were fun, but there were those days when staff called in sick and were replaced by a casual unfamiliar face. This development would cause more anxiety and confusion within the lockdown community.

One of my ‘aha’ moments was noticing the importance of animals and children in the residents lives. This particular facility advertised that they practiced the ‘Eden Alternative’. The Eden Alternative® is an international, non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to creating quality of life for Elders and their care partners, wherever they may live* and of course one of their 10 principles states that: Loving companionship is the antidote to loneliness. Elders deserve easy access to human and animal companionship. Hence, the management made sure animals were included in our facility. Our animal companionship for the residents when I began working included 2 cats, 1 rabbit, and 1 budgie. Unfortunately, early on in my job, our budgie died (which I had no hand in! He developed an illness that could not be cured, I swear!), then we acquired another rabbit that would stay in the lockdown unit.

Now as usual, in most if not all facilities, the care of pets reverted to the recreation department. Our department cleaned the litter twice a day, made sure the animals had food and we changed their water many times within the day. The deep cleaning of litter pans and rabbit cages were completed once a week. This was not really one of the jobs we enjoyed, but knew it had to be done for infection control purposes, although it did take us away from the residents and programming. Our 2 feline pets were located on separate floors, as they were not fond of one another. Although, I can attest that there were a few times one of the cats would sneak into the elevator to take a ride to another floor. This always created comic relief for the staff and residents! One resident even endearingly named one of our rabbits. This resident would sit with the rabbit daily and talk to him. It was very touching to see, except at times, she became very protective of anyone getting close to ‘Harry’s’ cage. – more information on the Eden Alternative



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