Mr. Gray in the Garden of Eden

Mr. Gray in the Garden of Eden

Okay, no Adam and Eve eating the apple stuff here. Sorry.

But I do wanna talk to ya’ll about the The Eden Alternative. Raise your hand if you’ve heard about this?! Didn’t think so. Not your fault doh, but it is a shame because because BECAAAUUSE, because of the wonderful things The Eden Alternative does!

First, lemme show you why Mr. Gray views today’s senior facilities (nursing homes, assisted living facilities, etc.) like you view mushy peas. BLAND & GROSS! These places make Mr. Gray feel lonely, bored, and helpless. I mean, total sad face :o((((((((( Why? Because a few years in a senior facility is NOT a trip to Disney World. Personally, I envision the “Walking Dead.” This slideshow will show ya why (click on the pics to swipe right):

I mean, it’s just depressing…and not a place me, you, OR Mr. Gray wants to be.

I could go on explaining why Mr. Gray kicks and screams when someone says “it’s time to go to a nursing home”, but you guys get it. AND. Despite what you might think, it doesn’t matter if the place has crystal chandeliers and 25,000 activities OR if it’s an outdated inner city facility that smells of urine (sorry I know that was a bit TMI but it’s true). It might SEEM that Mr. Gray is better off when things are fancypants, but that’s not necessarily the case.  You know that saying “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig”? Well that’s what these fancy facilities are — a beautiful cover up for the misery that lies beneath. And Mr. Gray sees right through it (he’s so keen like that ;o))

So, why is it that these places (dingy or gorg) that cost a fortune make Mr. Gray feel so blue? It’s because they were created based on an institutionalized model. Translation: They look, feel, and operate like a hospital/psychiatric ward/scene from “The Shining” aka not a home. The whole thing is just SO OLD SCHOOL. But without Will Ferrel. I mean it’s not the 1930’s – time to change the model people. For example, check out this nursing home that looks like a scene out of Grey’s Anatomy:

Nursing home? Hospital wing? IDONTKNOWITALLJUSTBLENDSTOGETHER

Nursing home? Hospital wing? IDONTKNOWITALLJUSTBLENDSTOGETHER

Not only does the layout still mimic hospitals with long ward-like hallways, but the care is also based on the staff’s convenience. It’s like if you paid for a week stay at a 5 star resort and the staff were helpful, but told you when to eat, sleep, drink, move, etc. UHHH REFUND PLEASE! Here’s the gist of it:

It’s all about keeping the residents alive and from falling, but it’s not about true physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.  

Sure, Mr. Gray can attend Friday night “game nights” and a Sunday sing-a-long, but that does very little to compensate for the failings of this archaic model. These facilities just focus on keeping him alive (with a little fluff on top). But survival is not happiness. It’s not fulfillment. It’s not enough for us as young adults, middle ages adults, and it’s STILL not enough for older adults. It doesn’t matter if he can’t walk anymore or he has dementia, Mr. Gray still has the potential to live life.

And this is where the Eden Alternative saves the day!!! [Cue inspirational comeback music]. Essentially, it’s a philosophy that attacks head on that loneliness, hopelessness, and boredom that Mr. Gray feels. Everything that an old school facility does, well it does the opposite so *put that thang down flip it and reverse it!* (Sorry, I really miss Missy Elliot).

Old School Facilities  MR GRAY SAYS BOOOOOOO!

  • Institutionalized model
  • Meeting basic needs is the focus
  • Staff-centric
  • Staff wear scrubs (i.e. they stick out like sore thumb & it’s all the medical feeeels)
  • Medical equipment & meds are out in the open
  • Strict and predictable schedules are followed as if the elderly were children (lunch now, bedtime now, etc.)
  • Limited access to other adults, children, and animals

VS.

The Eden Alternative Facilities   MR. GRAY SAYS YAAAAAAAAY!

  • Homelike model
  • Elderly-centric (staff support & befriend the seniors)
  • Staff wear regular clothes and blend in like family
  • Unpredictability & variety are key
  • Seniors have autonomy and a voice in their daily activities and general operations (even involved in meetings!)
  • Growing, learning, and contributing are a focus (ex. seniors can garden and grow their own food)
  • Seniors don’t just receive care, they have opportunities to give it
  • Medications, medical equipment, etc. are hidden so as to not be the focus
  • Easy access to humans (including children) & animals i.e. normal interactions

Which one would YOU choose? EA ALL DAAAAAAAY SON (OR GRAMPS) I have a dream, that one day, all senior facilities will be EA APPROVED.

So there are 2 ways to adopt the EA model: 1. A facility can go through a program with organizational restructuring, etc. and receive certification in this philosophy or 2. Be built from the ground up (*started from the bottom now we’re here*). #2 is called the “Green House Project.” These Green Houses have about 6-10 residents and look just like a regular home. Check it out:

 Pretty sure the Golden Girls live in this awesome rancher lol Note the garage, mailbox, and normal entryway. It's so house-like in every way! Pretty sure the Golden Girls live in this awesome rancher lol Note the garage, mailbox, and normal entryway. It’s so house-like in every way!

Now check out what goes on inside:

Mr. Gray in the Garden of Eden

Mr. Gray in the Garden of Eden

In conclusion, because I know this was a tad long but I mean, reading makes you smart and Mr. Gray told me to (his fault):

Mr. Gray doesn’t just survive with the Eden Alternative, he THRIVES, and isn’t that what he deserves? 

For more info, check it out at www.edenalt.org

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDPA!!!!!

Double Whammy

Double Whammy

 This is pretty much how I've looked up to older people my whole life - a bit of awe and wonder. This is pretty much how I’ve looked up to older people my whole life – a bit of awe and wonder.

You know how you hear stories about people who hit the lottery twice? Well, that happened to me, in the same day, with one minor difference. Instead of winning $350 Mill and retiring at age 35, I had TWO SIMULTANEOUS encounters with Mr. Gray. Ok, and I had to shell out a few bucks for labels. SameSame. Anywho, it was like the stars collided to give me a double dose of darling seniors.

Twins

This may surprise noone, but mailing packages is not typically one of my favorite things to do, ’til now. The other day I headed to UPS, my new favorite hangout, to mail some returns (I’d say Amazon Prime is 2nd in line to my addiction to the elderly). As soon as I got there, I noticed it wasn’t the same sweet middle-aged “What can I do for you sweetheart” lady I always see behind the counter. No no. It was Mr. Gray. And while I love that lady because who doesn’t like being called sweetheart at the end of every sentence, but BYE FELICIA.  

Double Whammy

Well, voted off the island for this shift anyway. Frankly, not only was I elated about this new employee, but I was surprised and thought to myself:

“He’s like 90 years old. Shouldn’t he be doing a crossword puzzle or watching “The Wheel” right now?!

FYI: That’s senior speak for “Wheel of Fortune” (thanks Grandpa). Shame on me for putting Mr. Gray in a box!! In all seriousness though, it is a common problem in today’s society to stereotype the elderly as unable, both physically and mentally, to do a variety of things. Due to this, not only are we used to seeing them in certain roles in limited environments, but we don’t offer the same opportunities to them. Ageism is real and while there are laws to prevent discrimination based on age in the workplace, it’s still a reality. If you’re unsure of that, ask a 50+ person if they put their college graduation year on their resume.  It’s rare to be hired as a senior, and the older one gets, the harder it is and more unusual it is to see. I think that reality is such a shame and disservice because seniors are capable of doing so much more than playing bingo, including contributing in the workplace. That day, Mr. Gray really put my thought to shame as he clearly loved his job AND was so fast on the computer. Not to mention, he was easy on the eyes as always 😉 [Is that weird that I said that? Yeah, who am I kidding. Oh well.]

                  *JUMPS OFF SOAPBOX*                  *JUMPS OFF SOAPBOX*

But wait, there’s more! Whilst capable and confident Mr. Gray was kicking butt one scan/label at a time, Mr. Gray #2 started to roll up, literally, in his wheelchair. *Cue praise songs* I mean, what did I do to deserve this, in one day, in one store. Apparently, American Legions are soooo last year, because UPS is the place to BE! In the midst of all this internal excitement, I darted to the door to help him open it. (I always look for an “in”) After a little chitchat, which is honestly, sometimes a bit forced on my end, I went to leave and said: “Have a nice day!”  

Normal responses one expects to hear:

  1.  “You too.”
  2.  “Thanks!”
  3.  *Crickets*

But no, not Mr. Gray, he always exceeds my expectations; he rocked my brown box world and hit me with a: “It already has been…you helped me.”………SWOOOOOON. WHAT?! MARRY ME. NO THAT’S WEIRD AND WOULD NEVER WORK SINCE I’M HAPPILY MARRIED. JUST HANG OUT WITH ME FOR LIFE. Luckily none of those thoughts actually came out of my mouth. I was just kind of in awe of him. Way to keep me on my toes Mr. Gray. I’ve never heard such an optimistic and delightful response to a a boring phrase people just say on autopilot. And now you get my point. Mr. Gray is extraordinary; he expressed good old fashioned gratefulness for a tiny gesture most of us would take for granted. 

So I left UPS with 2 gems. No, I did not take Mr. Gray 1 & 2 with me. But, I did leave with 2 lessons learned: 1. Some seniors love to work and can do a damn good job. 2. Find even the smallest opportunities to be grateful.