Hillcrest Manor approved to provide Eden Alternative training


When taking a tour of Sunnyside's Hillcrest Manor, one gets the feeling of being more at home than in a nursing home. The facility is one of two facilities in the state of Washington able to provide training of the Eden Alternative structure of elder care. The first training, sponsored by Hillcrest, will take place in Yakima in April.

Sunnyside's Hillcrest Manor has just received the go-ahead to provide Eden Alternative training, an innovative program that requires culture change within a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Hillcrest is one of two such facilities in the state able to provide the training; the other facility is in Spokane.

Hillcrest has been an Eden Alternative certified site since 2000, though changes began in 1999.

The concept is to shift the idea that a nursing home is a place for the elderly to die. Rather, the concept, developed by Dr. William Thomas, promotes a healthy human habitat centered on the needs of the elderly.

To be able to provide the training, Hillcrest had to get approval for mastering or overcoming the Eden Alternative 10 principles, which include:

-the three plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom, which account for the bulk of suffering in a human community.

-life in a truly human community revolves around close and continuing contact with children, plants and animals.

-loving companionship is the antidote to loneliness. In a human community, easy access to human and animal companionship must be provided.

-promoting giving care, as well as receiving care.

-trust shared within the human community.

-accepting meaning as nourishing the spirit.

-medical treatment should be the servant of genuine human caring, never its master.

-the wisdom of the elders grows in direction proportion to the honor and respect accorded them.

-human growth must never be separated from human life.

-wise leadership is the lifeblood of any struggle against the first three plagues.

According to Hillcrest Manor Administrator Mary Arthur, representatives of those who created the Eden Alternative approved the facility's manner of handling each of the 10 principles, thereby making them capable of providing the training. Arthur said it took four years to complete the process.

The first three-day training program is slated for April 2007, at Yakima Regional Hospital.

Why Yakima and not the facility here in Sunnyside? Answers Arthur, "It's going to reach more lives, and that's what we're here for. There are more nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Yakima." Arthur also questioned the willingness of participants to drive 70 miles a day for the three-day training.

While Hillcrest will sponsor the April training, the course will be instructed by the Director of Admissions and Social Work from the approved Spokane facility, although Arthur and Hillcrest's Director of Nursing Services will likely each teach a course.

The goal of the three-day program is to inspire others to implement Eden Alternative principles, inspire those who attend and find practical solutions to challenges a facility might face.

Arthur said that one challenge Hillcrest has is the age of the building--the fact that it was designed back when nursing homes were meant to give the appearance of a hospital.

That's certainly not the case today. Hillcrest looks more like a lively home than a hospital. Three months ago, they rid themselves of the box-style nurses station and instead installed a group of desks that looks more like a home office.

"We look around and we ask what we'd likely see at home. And we don't have nurses stations in our homes," explains Arthur.

Another recurring theme throughout the facility is the presence of birds, fish, plants and, yes, even the facility's cat, Sandy.

The Eden Alternative principles incorporate and promote life with life, whether its bird to elder or cat to elder. But most importantly, the center focus is on the elder, what the elder wants and needs. This oozes out into every aspect of elder care at Hillcrest, from the nursing assistants to activities, administration to dietary services.

This hasn't always been the case, said Activities Director Laura Tollefson. In the past, she says, "We knew we had a master plan on how they should be old. It wasn't a bad thing, it's just what we knew." Today, she says, "They (the elders) have the plan now and we just go along with it."

In Dietary Service, it's also a whole new way of doing things. In the past, elders rarely saw food service staff. According to Dietary Services Manager Evon Morris, it's not uncommon to see food service staff interacting with elders, learning their food likes and dislikes.

The nursing staff approached administration in January and requested, on behalf of the elders, to permanently be assigned to specific elders, as well as to set their own schedules. Administration gave the OK and turn-over has decreased dramatically.

Arthur's eager to share with others how the Eden Alternative is working at Hillcrest Manor, and how it can work in other facilities as well.

"The elders should be driving the train," she said. "It's the bottom line."


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