EdenAn amiable yet robust crowd of more than 350 gathered in Grand Rapids, Mich., in late May for the Eden Alternative’s 6th International Conference, where Eden Associates, Mentors, and others immersed themselves in sessions that covered a wide range of topics, from the Quality Indicator Survey to Culture Change with Younger Adults with Disabilities.

And like the group’s name indicates, the Eden atmosphere was ripe with congeniality and hospitality that made it seem more like a family reunion than an educational conference.

In addition to providing continuing education credit opportunities, the organization, whose name has become synonymous with culture change, person-centered care, and the deinstitutionalization of nursing homes, was celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Attendees traveled from around the world for the three-day meeting, which included a prominently displayed exhibit on the growth of Eden overseas.

Among the more notable “Edenized” countries were Australia and New Zealand (Oz & NZ), where there are 38 Eden Registry homes between the two countries, as well as 1,550 Eden Associates—individuals who have completed a three-day training in the principles and practices of the Eden Alternative.

Cathy Meyer, board chair of Eden in Oz & NZ, described some of the challenges to implementing Eden in “Australasia,” including a perception that the organization is seen as a “fur and feathers” group, a reference to Eden’s beginnings as a movement to bring dogs, birds, and cats into nursing homes. Despite the obstacles, the trajectory of growth in the number of Associates between the two countries is impressive, since the seed was planted there just six years ago.

In Europe, the Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark have a handful of Eden-registered homes among them, and dozens of Associates are making their “Eden journey.” In South Africa, 223 Eden Associates were trained recently in a span of just six months.

Worldwide, more than 25,000 people have been trained as Associates in the organization’s Ten Principles.
Since its founding in 1992, 180 long term care providers have become Eden-registered in the United States and Canada, according to Chris Perna, Eden’s chief executive officer.

“We expect this number to grow over the coming months as we add to the Registry home- and community-based service providers and providers that serve individuals with special needs,” he says, noting that Eden has traditionally served only nursing homes and assisted living communities.

Education was the main focus at Eden, where sessions were almost exclusively aimed at one thing: improving the lives of residents. One example was a session that examined the pros and cons of alarm use for residents. In addition to there being “no evidence to support the effective use of alarms,” they are harmful to the psyche of residents, presenters said.

Among other things, resident alarms are disruptive, annoying, harmful to residents’ dignity, and have been known to boost agitation in residents, session participants noted.

Suggested alternatives to alarm use included adding thick padding under carpeting, installing better lighting, removing sharp objects from the environment, and employing the use of exercises that improve residents’ balance.