Cassandra Vialpando, the Community Life Coordinator at Dayspring Villa, an assisted living community in Denver’s Sloan’s Lake neighborhood, recently graduated from the three-day-long Certified Eden Associate Training. The Eden Alternative philosophy of care focuses on eliminating loneliness, helplessness, and boredom from the lives of seniors living in aged care communities or their own homes, by creating opportunities, meaningful engagement, and spontaneity. Eden training for associates and residents is funded through donations to the General Mission Fulfillment Fund.

“Everything you know about healthcare is wrong…so what is right?” This was the question that Cassandra and fellow CLC team members would explore over the next couple of days.

When Cassandra returned to the community the following week after her Eden training, she could not ignore some of the institutional habits that have always been. She openly shared that she cried for the first two days as she witnessed the “three plagues”; loneliness; helplessness; and boredom affecting the older adults in her community – her family. She thought, “How can we work together (team members and residents) to change this?”

One thing she learned was the journey of culture change cannot be done alone. She reached out to Stormie, then Administrative Coordinator at Dayspring Villa Assisted Living, also a graduate of Eden training, and together they brainstormed ways to begin “warming the soil” of the community (AKA the garden). Cassandra decided to start by changing the view that residents had of assisted living. She began to weave Eden “soil warmers” like the “What it is, What it Ought to Be” exercise, and the Ungame into the community life calendar in May.

She asked residents, “What is Assisted Living to you?” They responded with answers that included “A place you live when you can’t do things anymore and when you need assistance.” She then asked, “And what ought it be?” Residents responded, “Help each other.” “Being a family.” “That we are caring for each other.” She empowered residents to start thinking of ways to create change in the community.

The “Ungame” provides an opportunity to learn more about your neighbors. It provides insight, stimulates conversation, and offers new perceptions. It also helps team members and residents discover needs. One example Cassandra shared is someone revealed they were afraid of the dark, so she was able to provide the resident with a night light for their apartment.

One Eden principle that really stuck with Cassandra was Principle #8, Decision Making Must Involve Those Most Impacted by the Decision. Cassandra asked residents to come up with ideas and suggestions for resident-led activities. To put their ideas into action, she handed over her June Life Enrichment calendar and asked residents to fill in activities that were important to them.

“They almost have the entire calendar filled out!” she exclaimed. “Decision-making needs to involve those most affected and that is our residents.”

Today, residents at Dayspring Villa Assisted Living are enjoying resident-led activities that include Movie Club, game night, and G.O.A.L. (Gift of a Lifetime friendship club) to name a few. They are also planning a Family Council that will invite their families to get more involved with and integrated into their community life.

Cassandra plans to continue to partner with residents to implement Eden philosophy into community life at Dayspring.

Christian Living Communities creates thriving communities where aging is honored and celebrated. The General Mission Fulfillment Fund provides special training for team members, like the Eden Certified Associate Training, that enrich the lives of the older adults and the communities where they live.

If you’d like to learn more, please contact Stephanie Manley, Director of Philanthropy, or Stormie Foust Maley, Annual Giving Manager. You can also make a gift online today to support the General Mission Fund.

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