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Nursing homes can be cool places to live: The Eden Alternative

Written by Diane Archer

When we think about nursing homes, many of us conjure up images of large, lifeless, antiseptic-smelling institutions filled with lonely people waiting to die. But, nursing homes can be cool places to live.

Dr. Bill Thomas, a believer in and creator of innovative nursing homes, sees growing older as an opportunity for enrichment and embeds this view into his nursing homes. When he transformed the nursing home at which he served as medical director, he brought in dogs, cats, parakeets, hundreds of plants and a vegetable garden as well as a day-care center for staff’s kids. He called it the Eden Alternative.

What happened? Older adults no longer felt helpless, lonely or bored. Residents began caring for the animals and the garden. They became more autonomous. They became less anxious and needed fewer medications. And, they were better able to care for themselves. Moreover, the death rate declined.

Now we can find these nursing homes in all 50 states and around the world,  And, Dr. Thomas has taken it further with Green Houses. Green Houses are small nursing homes, in which every resident has his or her own bedroom and bathroom.  Click here to read more about Green Houses on Just Care.

You can read more about Dr. Thomas and his work in Atul Gawande’s important book, Being Mortal.

If you want to learn more about Medicare coverage of nursing home care, which is very limited, click here. And click here to learn what you should know if your income is low and you have Medicare, including your possible eligibility for Medicaid; Medicaid covers nursing home care and other long-term services and supports.


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