Home is Where the Heart Is

July 14, 2011
Dr. Bill Thomas, ChangingAging.org

The press leads with this…

Beeping call bells, medication carts, rigid meal times and other elements of traditional nursing homes have been scrapped on the 13th floor of The Cunningham nursing home in Syracuse.

The changes are all part of a $1 million makeover by Loretto, the home’s operator, to make the floor and the way it provides care less institutional. Thirty residents living on the 12th floor will begin moving into the new space next week. Over time, Loretto hopes to replicate the changes throughout The Cunningham, 700 E. Brighton Ave., which houses 450 people.

Which is lovely and very good.

Welcome to My House

But the heart of the change is this…

The floor will be staffed by people who have been trained in the Eden Alternative, a system that gives elderly people more autonomy and aims to improve the quality of care and life in nursing homes.

“The traditional care approach is all based on tasks — the quicker you get your task done, the better,” said Karen Carroll, Loretto’s director of green community and person-centered care. “Eden is based on relationships, taking time with residents and letting them make their choices.”

On a typical nursing home floor, meals are served at set times. On the 13th floor, residents will decide when they want to eat. “The idea is to give people input into decisions as opposed to the organization saying, ‘Dinner is at 6 p.m. and bedtime is at 8 p.m.,’” said Sally Berry, Loretto’s interim president and CEO.

The work of caring for residents also has been reorganized. The duties of certified nursing assistants have been expanded to include cleaning, laundry and cooking — tasks traditionally done by housekeepers, dining staff and maintenance workers.

The assistants also have a new title, “Anam Cara,” which means “soul friend” in Gaelic. The job title reflects the closer relationship assistants will have with residents. “They will be assigned to specific households, get to know the individuals and eat together,” Berry said. “It’s very much a family-style approach.”



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