SOCIAL CAPITAL IN A LONG-TERM CARE ENVIRONMENT
THE EFFECT OF THE EDEN-ALTERNATIVE®
Using new social science based instruments of measuring social capital; the effect of the Eden-Alternative philosophy was evaluated 2008/2009 in the pilot unit of a large nursing home in the city of Vienna, Austria.
Three units (one pilot and two comparative units) with a significant proportion of persons with dementia were evaluated, 89 seniors participated in the research determining how social contacts and social relations impact on wellbeing. The pilot unit had implemented the Eden-Alternative philosophy about a year ago.
In this setting it was possible to determine the positive effect of the Eden Alternative. Additionally, the study generated indicators of the effect of social capital in senior care.
Social capital is a new term to encompass emotional energy and its effects in the experience of individuals and groups. The OECD initiative “Measuring social capital” developed widely applicable instruments evaluating this elementary emotional force. Its aim is to counter the impending dissolution of social ties in the modern world. The growing number of old people requiring care is one of the huge social capital challenges in our society.
Measuring social capital in the large nursing home was insofar a pilot study, as a method to quantify observations of social contacts was developed in order to include persons with dementia and other severe impairments. Interviews, medical observations, the opinion of the carers and visitors were supplemented by quantifiable observation protocols.
The results speak a clear language. The social contacts with the care staff were rated as good (between 2 and 3 on a scale from 1 to 5 – 1 the best, 5 the worst) in the Eden unit, however, as very good (1,8), despite the fact that this unit has even more persons with dementia than the other two comparison units. The relationship work of the care staff is flawless and this stands out even more clearly within the Eden unit.
Overall, generalisations from the study indicate that
1. Staff need enough time and education in order to provide emotional relations
2. Relationship focussed concepts like the Eden-Alternative strengthen the social capital within a community of elders
3. Investing into the provision of social relations will „pay off“ with regard to health and wellbeing of the residents
4. Visitors of family and near friends relations and the building of personal relationships through visitors (senior mentors) can be recommended
Intensive development and maintenance of social relations as promoted by the Eden Alternative are fruitful because there is a strong correlation between social capital and health. Social ties can slow down the need for long-term care.
The authors of the study are interested in replicating the study to strengthen the results of this pilot study.
If you are interested please contact the lead investigator:
Prof. DI Ernst Gehmacher