Eden Alternative Trainings Offer New Way to See Dementia

March 01, 2012
Laura Beck, The Eden Alternative

The Eden Alternative is launching new trainings focused on helping long-term care communities see dementia through new eyes.  The new two-day training Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of Care, based on Dr. Al Power’s award-winning book of the same name, debuted Feb. 8 in Providence, R.I., and attracted participants from around the U.S. and Canada.

Dr. Power said the inspiration for the book was drawn from daily life as Medical Director and Eden Mentor at St. John’s Home in Rochester, NY.  Over time, he couldn’t help but notice that the traditional approach to caring for those who live with dementia simply wasn’t working.  While the drugs available certainly calmed people – mostly through sedation – they didn’t create genuine well-being.

“Using the paradigm shift of The Eden Alternative, I began to see that our whole model of caring for people living with dementia was broken,” Power said.  “We needed a different approach.”

Dr. Power said his book, which is both a 2010 Book of the Year Award Winner for the American Journal of Nursing and a National Mature Media Award Winner for 2011, has already had tremendous impact in the field. But he said a conversation with Dr. Jules Rosen, a colleague and expert on dementia, focused Power’s attention on the need to reach the front-line, hands-on care partners who may not have the time to kick back and read a book.

“It became clear that a training format was really needed to get the information into everyone’s hands,” said Power, who began collaborating with The Eden Alternative to develop an interactive platform for teaching the “Experiential Model” of dementia care outlined in his book.  With support from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, the two-day Dementia Beyond Drugs was created.

One of the courses first graduates, Culture Change Network of Georgia Director Kim McRae, called Dr. Power’s work visionary. McRae said the Experiential Model successfully transforms “a dementia patient” into “a person who experiences the world differently.”

“This training should be required for everyone who is in a leadership position in any organization that serves or cares for people who are living with dementia,” McRae said.

Suellen Beatty, the CEO of Sherbrooke Community Centre traveled from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to participate and agreed that the training packs a powerful message.

“Dr. Power is right on the money when he says ‘person first, disease second,’”  said Beatty.

Beatty said the Dementia Beyond Drugs training takes the field one step closer to creating a culture of care where drugs are not, by default, the first line of defense.  The Experiential Model gives people their lives back and provides care partners valuable opportunities to receive the unique gifts people living with dementia have to offer us, she said.

“It’s so important for those who’ve only been exposed to the deficit-based approach to care to begin with a holistic, person-directed view of dementia,” Power said. “And honestly, Dementia Beyond Drugs, as a training, really assumes that you are already part of the way there.  Folks really need to start with the fundamentals of building relationships with people who live with dementia and what it means to really know them deeply.”

To help introduce care partners to this philosophy, The Eden Alternative will launch Reframing Dementia: An Eden Alternative Perspective in March, as the 101 introduction to Powers’ Dementia Beyond Drugs.  As a 1-day training, Reframing Dementia will draw primarily on Eden Alternative Principles to define the fundamental role of sensitivity, awareness, and presence in identifying the needs of those living with dementia.

“Experiencing Reframing Dementia first really gives participants the confidence to take on the more advanced skills they will learn in Dementia Beyond Drugs,” said Eden Alternative CEO, Chris Perna. “Reframing Dementia really focuses on the fine art of creating meaningful relationships with people who live with dementia.  This is what ultimately prepares us to be truly attentive and responsive care partners.”

Reframing Dementia will be available to Eden Registry Members as a training kit that will empower them to deliver the content to large groups, as often as they wish, within their organizations.  Non-members can arrange for the on-site training with an Eden Educator via the Eden Alternative Home Office by contacting Meredith Burrus, Education Coordinator, at education@edenalt.org.

To experience Dementia Beyond Drugs, go to our list of scheduled trainings at www.edenalt.org, or contact Meredith Burrus at education@edenalt.org to host a training at your location.

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