Garden of Eden…….

After a 2-day break and feeling thoroughly refreshed I was off again on what was another gloriously hot day to visit the ‘Mary Chester’ Club. The Mary Chester Club provides a place for people living with dementia to go for the day and is open from Monday to Saturday with the latter open specifically to people living with younger onset dementia. It follows the 10 principles of the Eden Alternative- something I will be exploring in more detail when I visit the USA later this year. The Eden Alternative aims to change the culture of elder care and is about enhancing well-being and eliminating the 3 plagues of loneliness, helplessness and boredom what is often the reality for many people living with dementia in care homes today. It values the experience, strengths and wisdom of elders rather than focusing on deficits and decline.

What struck me throughout my visit was the warmth, sense of calm purpose, can-do attitude and spontaneity of the social environment which is led by what people want to do on that specific day either individually or as groups and complemented by occupational profiles completed by the person and their families. Supporting personhood is key to the ethos of the Mary Chester Club and the Eden Alternative as the underlying philosophy.

They have managed to achieve a sensible balance between the clinical/ health & safety aspects of support as a Statutory Service and principles of the Eden Alternative. There is a ratio of 1 member of staff to every 4 people attending and an open door policy for volunteer staff. People are encouraged to undertake activities as they wish which might mean assisting with lunch in the open plan kitchen area or helping in the garden providing the opportunity to give as well as receive care and help reduce any sense of helplessness. I was able to see the positive impact of plants and animals there with a weekly baby/toddler group also taking place, which is positively received-, all 3 help to promote purpose and connectedness to a life worth living

Late afternoon/ early evening I was fortunate enough to kayak once again with what now felt like old friends on the Swan river- such a great way to be truly in the moment.

Up in the early hours of the morning to fly over to Adelaide and find out about an exciting training programme developed by Flinders University and spend some time with the exceedingly busy and inspirational Kate Swaffer.

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