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Animals as Caregivers

By Frances Maguire Paist

(Page 2 of 3)

If thereís a senior in your life you think might benefit from individual pet ownership, be sure to ask first whether he or she wants to take on the responsibility and feels up to the demands pet care giving will entail. And by all means, take them with you when you go shopping. They may love something about a pet that you would have never noticed. As a caregiver, though, be sure to think through whether youíll be equipped to take the pet on if the older person in your life can no longer care for it.

Whether pet ownership is an option or visiting pets fill the bill better, remember the key. Furry, friendly favorites of people everywhere, animals alleviate loneliness, helplessness and boredom. And thatís what the Eden Alternative celebrates on behalf of senior citizens everywhere.

The Eden Alternative Ten Guiding Principles

Developed in 1991 by Geriatrician Dr. William Thomas, the Eden Alternative is a nursing care approach that presents long-term care facilities as habitats for human beings rather than facilities for the frail and elderly. To that end, these are their ten guiding principles:

  1. The three plagues of loneliness, helplessness and boredom account for the bulk of suffering among our elders.

  2. An elder-centered community commits to creating a human habitat where life revolves around close and continuing contact with plants, animals and children. It is these relationships that provide the young and old alike with a pathway to a life worth living.

  3. Loving companionship is the antidote to loneliness. Elders deserve easy access to human and animal companionship.

  4. An elder-centered community creates opportunity to give as well as receive care. This is the antidote to helplessness.

  5. An elder-centered community imbues daily life with variety and spontaneity by creating an environment in which unexpected and unpredictable interactions and happenings can take place. This is the antidote to boredom.

  6. Meaningless activity corrodes the human spirit. The opportunity to do things that we find meaningful is essential to human health.

  7. Medical treatment should be the servant of genuine human caring, never its master.

  8. An elder-centered community honors its elders by de-emphasizing top-down bureaucratic authority, seeking instead to place the maximum possible decision-making authority into the hands of the elders or into the hands of those closest to them.

  9. Creating an elder-centered community is a never-ending process. Human growth must never be separated from human life.

  10. Wise leadership is the lifeblood of any struggle against the three plagues. For it, there can be no substitute.

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