Dementia Beyond Drugs: The Eden Alternative Training

The Eden Alternative was so impressed with the award-winning book, “Dementia Beyond Drugs,” by with Allen Power, MD, that it has designed a set of training programs based on it.

The introductory class, Reframing Dementia: An Eden Alternative Perspective, was launched in March. It’s a one-day class that draws primarily on Eden Alternative principles one through five. The class talks about the fundamental role of sensitivity, awareness, and being in the moment with each resident in identifying their needs.

“The instructors of the classes have experience working with people with dementia,” notes Chris Perna, Eden Alternative chief executive officer. “The key to being an effective care partner is really knowing the people you’re serving. This idea of going beyond what their medical condition is to what their personal history was and is and what they’re all about is really critical,” he says.

“The deeper you go with that knowledge really unlocks person-directed care.”

The classes help change participants’ mindsets of people with dementia being people suffering from a disease to realizing that “you’re working with an individual who’s new normal is different than it’s been throughout their lives, and it’s different than your normal,” says Perna.

The class costs $599 and the knowledge gained and materials gathered can be used over and over to train as many people back at the facility as is desired, says Perna.

Dementia Beyond Drugs Class

A follow-up class, named after Power’s book, is a two-day (16-hour) class that demonstrates the Experiential Model that facilitates growth, meaningful engagement, and improved well-being for people who live with dementia.

The class builds on Reframing Dementia and goes on to explore principles six through 10 of the Eden Alternative.

It talks about how the current approach to dementia care doesn’t provide the outcomes caregivers are looking for and people with dementia desperately need. The class provides advanced skills and creative solutions to everyday situations, with the goal of empowering people with dementia to live full and positive lives.

The training emphasizes:
  • Everyone experiences dementia differently, not only because there are so many kinds of dementia, but also because each experience is colored by each individual’s own life history, preferences, values, spirituality, and other facets of their unique personality.
  • Because people with dementia have difficulty communicating their fear, anger, discomfort, and other emotions and needs, these are expressed in ways that have come to be labeled “difficult behaviors”—but they are still valid methods of communication that caregivers must learn to interpret and respond to appropriately.
“Al Power’s course, Dementia Beyond Drugs, builds on the principles in Reframing Dementia and teaches how they can be applied in advanced caregiving techniques, with the goal being to eliminate pharmaceuticals whenever possible,” says Perna.

“It’s hard work, but you can eliminate the need for drugs. It takes a lot of time and patience. There’s an organization in which 90 percent of the dementia population was using pharmaceuticals, and in a little over a year they went to only 10 percent using them,” he says. “They chose to focus on their toughest situation first, even though Al discouraged them from doing that, and they had success. They realized if they could do it with that individual, they could do it with anybody.”

This class costs $395 for the two days. Organizations that have their own trained Eden educator on staff are only charged $200.

Eden Alternative staff recommend that those interested in these classes first complete the Certified Eden Associate Training (a three-day class that carries 21.5 continuing education units), as it provides key foundational skills that better prepare participant for this material.

For more information, visit, or contact Meredith Burrus, education coordinator, at (585) 461-3951or e-mail her at

Eden Alternative’s 10 Principles

1.The three plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom account for the bulk of suffering among the elderly. Culture change [is needed] toward person-centered care.

2. An elder-centered community commits to creating a human habitat where life revolves around close and continuing contact with plants, animals, and children. It is these relationships that provide the young and old alike with a pathway to a life worth living.

3. Loving companionship is the antidote to loneliness. Elders deserve easy access to human and animal companionship.

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 that we find meaningful is essential to human health.

7. Medical treatment should be the servant of genuine human caring, never its master.

8. An elder-centered community honors its elders by de-emphasizing top-down bureaucratic authority, seeking instead to place the maximum possible decision-making authority into the hands of the elders or into the hands of those closest to them.

9. Creating an elder-centered community is a never-ending process. Human growth must 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 substitute.


Source: The Eden Alternative