The Eden Approach – would it change the way nursing homes worked?

Is growing older a good thing?  So many things we read, see on television or hear from our doctors lead us to believe that growing old is a bad thing.  I came across an article through social media recently that featured a doctor who was sending the exact opposite message.  Dr. Bill Thomas, who was trained at Harvard and awarded the 2015 Next Avenue Influencer in Aging says Growing older is a good thing.  He wants to see people see aging individuals as enriched people who are wise and needed, not a burden.  As the author of the article interviewed Dr. Thomas on the idea, he said, In the professional world of geriatrics, [I] found that the idea of interdependence among generations “runs smack dab into the idea that old age is a train wreck and that older people are not contributing, that they’re a burden on us.”  Thus, we have bought so willingly into the idea of aging as something to be feared that it has become a given that as you grow old you will be burden so you start to become isolated.    With the background that Dr. Thomas has he sees becoming older as so much more fulfilling. ” Old and young are two distinct times of life, neither one better or worse than the other. .. the different ways brains process information and foster creativity at different times of life (the young are more literal and mathematical; the old are better at improvisation and making associations).”  Dr. Thomas’ background is thorough and well respected to have these opinions.  He became the medical director of a nursing home in upstate New York in 1991.  At the time he become medical director, the place was described in the article as “depressing, a repository for old people whose minds and bodies seemed dull and dispirited.” He decided to change things and  had his staff bring in two dogs, four cats, several hens and rabbits, along with 100 parakeets, along with hundreds of plants, a vegetable and flower garden and a day-care site for staffers’ kids.  Did this affect the residents?  It did.  Caring for the plants and animals gave the resident’s responsibility, raised their spirits and gave them independence.  They started to dress themselves, many leaving their rooms and eating.  The numbers of prescriptions fell to half, particularly for drugs that treat agitation.  Medication costs dropped and so did the death rate. He named his new approach the Eden Alternative and it was duplicated in hundreds of institutions.
I know we would like to see this approach to many of our nursing homes here in Florida.  If the Eden approach was used, maybe we would not see the horrors we see in our nursing home cases.
If you or a loved one has been abused, neglected or died as a result of neglect in a nursing home, contact us at Edwards & Ragatz, P.A. for a free consultation by phone at (904)399-1609 or (800)366-1609 or by email at

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