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What Makes a Home vs. an Institution?

bear by the fire

Last week our blog was addressing what The Eden Alternative© calls “the three plagues” that elders encounter as they age.[1] These “plagues” of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom are a spiritual/emotional ailments and thus are unaddressed by most conventional models of elder care which focus exclusively on the medical/physical needs of elders. The plagues can, however, be directly addressed through the use of intentional care practices that we at Homewatch CareGivers of Crystal Lake work to implement. One of those principles of good care is the what The Eden Alternative© calls the difference between “home and institution.[2]” Home care already has an advantage in creating a more home like environment by the very nature of the care taking place in a clients home and not in a care facility, however, this difference alone does not guarantee a holistic “home” environment.

It will be most straight-forward way to talk about the differences between care that creates a home vs an institution by describing what we mean by “institutional care.” The Eden Alternative© defines an institutional environment as one where neither the caregiver nor care receiver is empowered, “spontaneity and variety are absent”, there are no opportunities to both give and receive, there is no partnership between caregiver and client, and most consequentially the focus is exclusively on physical “treatment” and tasks are prioritized over care for the individual.[3] These negative traits are what can make any kind of care feel “institutional”, even within a home, and is why our emphasis on providing quality HOME care is about more than where the care takes place.

We believe that elders, should have autonomy, dignity, and meaning reenforced through the care we provide. This can only happen when empowered care partners work together in a relationship that allows for agency in both partners. It also means our caregivers work to stimulate a diversity of life for their clients that includes things like getting outside or playing games together. Fundamentally, our goal is to ensure that elders in our care feel seen as humans and not just like a number in a system. And all this comes down to a type of care that is founded in relationship. We at Homewatch CareGivers of Crystal Lake use the principles of the Eden Alternative© in order to achieve these goals and we train all our caregivers in these principles so you can know that when your loved one receives home care from us, they are seeing real benefits of a deinstitutionalized care that makes elders feel at home.


[1] Eden at Home: Care Partner's Workbook. Rochester, NY: Eden Alternative, 2011. pp. 13.

[2] Ibid. pp. 21.

[3] Ibid. pp. 21.

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