A Holistic Approach

Categories: Advocacy, Emotional & Spiritual Health, Living with Dementia|By |Published On: March 26, 2019|

The Eden Alternative approach to dementia care focuses on the whole human being

Colleen Pylypow, Sherbrooke’s Manager of Volunteers and Global Events, and resident Malcolm Gilbert enjoying a game of baseball. Photo courtesy of Sherbrooke Community Centre.

Colleen Pylypow, Sherbrooke’s Manager of Volunteers and Global Events, and resident Malcolm Gilbert enjoying a game of baseball. Photo courtesy of Sherbrooke Community Centre.

Well-being is the cornerstone of the Eden Alternative philosophy. 

Co-created by Americans Dr. Bill Thomas and Jude Thomas in the early 1990s, the Eden Alternative abandons the institutional approach to nursing home and dementia care and, instead, focuses on the human spirit as well as the human body in order to create a home where residents can thrive.

“Often, we were not taking into account the human spirit, and of course, for people with dementia, the human spirit is central because people with dementia live more and more in their emotions,” says Suellen Beatty, CEO of Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon, the first long-term care facility in Western Canada to formally register with the Eden Registry as an Eden Alternative home. (The Eden Registry is an international body that honours organizations committed to transforming traditional care approaches through the Eden Alternative philosophy.)

Developed especially for those living with dementia, who tend to be at a higher risk for loneliness, helplessness and boredom, the approach emphasizes the importance of companionship (from both humans and animals) in elder care. It also incorporates an elder-centred approach, in which residents have control over their care, and it encourages a varied and spontaneous environment. The philosophy encourages the use of the terms “elder” and “care partners” as opposed to “caregivers.”

“If you’ve worked with people with dementia, you clearly understand it is a partnership. People agree or disagree with whether they’re going to receive care or not receive care,” notes Beatty. 

The Sherbrooke Community Centre is home to 263 residents as well as day program participants. It has a community garden, art studio, gift shop, and more, all of which provide access to a healthy community environment where they can choose their activities and day-to-day experiences. Opportunities for intergenerational connections are provided from a daycare and a Saskatoon Public School grade six classroom that also operate out of the centre.

Beatty advocates that people living with dementia be part of healthy, normal communities as opposed to segregating them. She believes people living with dementia benefit when they remain connected to their relationships, nature, and varied activities. “In trying to make the world safe for people living with dementia, [we risk losing] the good parts of life, too.”

Beatty offers trainings on the Eden Alternative several times a year. [ ]

Learn more at sherbrookecommunitycentre.ca and edenalt.org

The Eden Alternative is guided by seven domains of well-being



The elder’s history, and who they are as a person is well-known.


The elder is empowered to make as many choices as possible. 


The elder has opportunities to find meaning from things that really matter to them.


Elders can grow through meaningful activities.


Elders feel connected to others, their environment and nature.


Elders feel psychologically, as well as physically, safe.


Elders experience pleasurable moments.