Dancer Image




    NAT SOUND UP FULL 1:49:10

When Amy Kovar's grandmother Gertrude, an Alzheimer's patient, arrived at David Place Skilled Nursing Facility in David City last year, she asked her granddaughter to take her back home. Now Kovar, a certified nursing assistant at David Place, says her grandmother calls David Place home. Gertrude and the other ninety-three residents share David Place with twenty-six parakeets and finches. Kovar says the birds have revitalized her grandmother's environment.

    1:09:02 before the birds came
    1:09:14 she brings 'em her toast

    1:09:26 it has improved her
    1:09:30 has a sense of home

David Place has embraced the Eden Alternative, an approach seeking to transform long-term care facilities from institutions to human habitats. Geriatric physician William Thomas introduced the Eden Alternative to the Chase Memorial Nursing Home in New Berlin, New York in nineteen-ninety-one. Since then more than two hundred nursing homes nationwide have begun Edenizing, including Thomas Fitzgerald Veterans' Home in Omaha. Thomas Fitzgerald dementia unit manager, Nickie Bigley....

    20:31 some people like to use
    20:46 twenty-three years in long-term care

Bigley and Bob Bratty, facilities maintenance technician at Thomas Fitzgerald, have accepted Eden regional coordinator positions for Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. They will teach nursing home representatives to train their staffs in Eden principles. Bratty says a primary principle involves redefining staff roles.

    23:37 my purpose at Thomas Fitzgerald
    23:53 for the people who live here

Bratty says the traditional nursing home approach confuses medical treatment with true resident care. He says an Eden facility addresses loneliness, helplessness and boredom by opening its doors to plants, pets and children. Interacting with this lively environment, residents not only receive care; they enjoy the constant opportunity to give care as well. This opportunity provides particular comfort to residents with Alzheimer's disease. Bigley says the greatest challenge for the Alzheimer's caregiver is meeting uncommunicated needs.

    48:08 that's where I think
    48:34 thought of is medication

In fact, Edenized homes report significant reduction in medication use, as well as declines in infection, staff turnover and resident mortality rates. Bigley and Bratty say the Eden reputation has prompted widespread enthusiasm about the philosophy. Representatives of the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home in Omaha and Bethany Place in Minden number among the Nebraska care providers who have contacted Bigley and Bratty to express interest in Edenizing.

    NAT SOUND UP FULL 1:51:20

In addition to adopting birds, David Place in David City has built a wheelchair-accessible garden, offers on-site daycare for staff and weekly activities for local students, and expects to receive a dog by the end of this month. David Place administrator Mary Lee High says these features are part of a broader journey for the Edenizing home.

    1:30:26 people have to realize
    1:30:47 to that homelike environment

But in agricultural communities like David City, fur and feathers are essential to a homelike environment. Richard and Donna Soboda and their ten-year-old son Ryan appreciate the Eden Alternative's acknowledgement of that fact.


Richard's father Louie, a retired farmer, cares for a parakeet in his room at David Place. Richard and Ryan stand beside Louie's bed as the parakeet, named Tom after Tom Osborne, perches on Louie's hand.

    1:05:09 this has been kind of
    1:05:13 tries to be here

    1:05:21 even when Ryan kinda
    1:05:37 can't do it, but he can so...

    1:42:49 I squeak my shoe
    1:42:54 another bird talking to him

NAT SOUND BED 1:42:57 through 1:43:02

    1:40:52 he's a well-behaved bird
    1:40:57 he's a smart bird

    1:43:17 I enjoy him
    1:43:22 I enjoy both of them

Bob Bratty says ultimately families like the Sobodas will determine the direction of long-term care. He predicts the Baby Boomer generation will lead a movement to transform the nursing home industry in the next ten to fifteen years.

For Nebraska Public Radio, I'm Kim Kankiewicz.

Kim Kankiewicz
Aplomb Communications
660 Mountainside Drive
Issaquah, WA 98029

Kim is a versatile writer serving education, behavioral health and arts organizations and other nonprofit clients. Call on Kim for:
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