Doak Walker's 'culture change' honored

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Eighty-four-year-old Betty Cole's orchids offer a touch of spring against the gloomy skies outside the Doak Walker Care Center.

It took "good luck and a green thumb" to get the finicky plants to bloom, she said.

A plethora of plants are among ways residents at the skilled nursing facility hone their nurturing skills and avoid the boredom and helplessness that can plague the elderly.

Nurturing activities are just one part of the center's efforts to create a more home-like atmosphere.

The Doak Walker Care Center was honored Wednesday for its "culture change" by the Eden Alternative, a national organization that spearheaded the holistic approach to elderly care.

The center is the second skilled nursing facility in Colorado to become Eden certified. Admin-istrators from the other Eden facility, the Good Samaritan Village in Fort Collins, traveled to Steamboat Springs to make the honor official.

"You guys were Eden bef-ore Eden was Eden," Good Samaritan coordinator Donna Gruis said, referring to the GrandKids Child Care Center. "You've already planted the seeds."

Initiated 22 years ago, the child-care facility at Doak Walker provides interaction among residents and children ages 5 and younger. It also discourages loneliness among residents by matching them with children through the Special Friends program.

"I love the kids," said Irma Douce, 83, who has enjoyed the company of her special friend Daisy for several years. "I like to go see them play."

Children and animals, including resident dog Scooter and pet parakeets in some residents' rooms, are an important part of the Eden model.

Music and fitness programs, a library, aromatherapy, massage, weekly manicures and baking activities are among the many ways the center keeps residents relaxed and busy.

The core of the Eden approach is spontaneity or "making things happen" outside of daily regimes, said Sherry Friesen, administrator at Good Samaritan.

"In everything you do, I encourage you to think about what you would want it to be like for you," she told the staff.

At Doak Walker, for example, staff provide a late breakfast for residents who want to sleep in. A weekly buffet offers different meal choices and the opportunity to eat and visit with staff.

Carol Schaffer, director of Doak Walker, attributed the center's progress in the Eden model largely to the staff.

"It's the staff who have really done most of the work and been willing to change," she said. "We are really proud."

More information about the Eden Alternative organization is available at www.edenalt.com.

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