Normality, individuality, social integration. Whatever one personally understands by these three guiding concepts and the ideas they express, the prerequisite is an inversion of the conventional perspective. The institution is not in the centre of attention, but rather the individuals who live in and with it. And individuals define how the Theodor Fliedner Foundation must be designed in order to best approach fulfilling their needs. A logical consequence of this perspective is the systematic decentralization of the work in all areas of the Theodor Fliedner Foundation. Decisions are made as far as possible at the base, since this is where one must directly and flexibly react to the needs of the elderly, sick and handicapped. This concept has decisively transformed the management structures of the foundation during the past twenty years. The facilities largely work under the principle of individual acceptance of responsibility, administer their own budget, and continue the principle of decentralization at all levels. The function of the management is to create general conditions which guarantee a high degree of quality and cost effectiveness. In order for the work of the foundation to also reflect scientific progress and be able to try out new approaches, the "Institute for Interdisciplinary and Applied Social Welfare Studies" (Institut für interdisziplinäre und angewandte Diakoniewissenschaft, IfD) was founded under the auspices of the Protestant Church in Germany, and on 11 Feb. 1998 the institute was recognized by the Ministry for Science and Research of the State of North Rhine Westphalia as an academic establishment of Bonn University.
A total of 29 facilities of the Theodor Fliedner Foundation are distributed in five federal states. The Theodor Fliedner Foundation employs a staff of over 1,900 who attend to more than 2,000 elderly, handicapped and sick persons in Germany.
All exertions of the Theodor Fliedner Foundation are guided by three overall principles which underlie all its activities.
Normal – that's what we are. But if we are talking about people who do not appear to fit into our concept of a "normal" world – because of great age, illness, or disability – then the striving for "normality" is something that is still far from the norm. The surroundings in which people live should be as normal as possible, e.g. for practicing habits that the person has grown fond of, and in the social exchange with close and extended surroundings.
At the very beginning there was the policy decision to no longer build any more traditional retirement homes. In such conventional old-age institutions, the residents are all too frequently subordinated to becoming organisational, custodial and administration technical processes. Moreover we should not "treat" individuals to become something according to some norm determined in some way or other. We should take their individual desires and needs seriously, characteristics which have developed in the course of their whole life, respect them, and adjust ourselves to them. Only then, as second priority, do we see impairments which are deemed necessary to correct with professional help. Integrating housing forms were created for a surrounding which can be freely designed, providing a flexible offering of aids which do justice to the peoples' desire for individuality.
Social integration requires that every person has a right to participate in a social live, to maintain contacts to individuals of various ages and different life situations. There is no such thing as living quarters and a lifestyle which is right for everyone. A graduated offering was developed, from which each individual can select according to personal capabilities and needs. For example, in the "village" [das Dorf] in Mülheim-Selbeck, where 600 people with and without disabilities live together, the young as well as the elderly, this claim has been largely redeemed in daily reality.