Variety truly is the spice of life – at any age

By HBH - 30 March 2019

Variety truly is the spice of life – at any age

As an occupational therapist at HBH Senior Living, Carol Turner is closely involved in the implementation of the Eden Alternative at HBH Senior Living. She’s seen the difference it makes to the lives of residents – and to the daily routine of the staff.

“The essence of the Eden Alternative is about creating a homelike environment rather than an institutional environment,” says Carol. “Life at home is often varied with all sorts of things happening spontaneously – particularly when children and animals live there – so why should this stop just because a person is in a rest home or hospital?” 

Principle 5 of the Eden Alternative aims to overcome the three major problems of residential care – loneliness, helplessness and boredom – by imbuing life with variety and spontaneity, and allowing for the unexpected and unpredictable to take place. To achieve that, staff members have to be more flexible and spontaneous in their approach too.

“Whilst we have monthly Social Calendar planning with residents, there are still many opportunities for staff across all the different departments to initiate and plan their own fun things to do with residents living in their Communities of work.”

During the day, residents are encouraged to help with things like helping to deliver morning tea, wiping trays, folding napkins, cleaning out the budgie cage – all things which allow them to contribute to daily life. These day-to-day tasks not only provide more variety, but also help residents and staff to connect with each other.

“Eden has been a big change and fostering variety and spontaneity does require a certain amount of courage! Your day looks quite different – less task driven and more focused on supporting residents to engage with the daily running of their Community,” explains Carol.

“These days, you’ll see fewer staff tucked away in offices writing reports. Instead, they’re sitting at a table in a resident lounge doing their paperwork alongside the residents. Just being there rather than in the office provides companionship and socialisation – just as you would at home where family members do things alongside each other.”

Carol says they still provide a general framework for each of the communities to run with – for example, each week has a theme and residents have input to these. Saint Patrick’s Day was a theme in February, but the occasion lasted for a week instead of the usual day!

Another great example, says Carol, is when staff members take residents outside to see what needs doing in the garden. “Our whole aim is to make daily life more varied rather than a rigid routine. It’s definitely making a difference – it leaves both staff and residents feeling more fulfilled and rewarded at the end of each day.”

Lisa Waldren