Giving Alzheimer’s Patients What They Want
Alzheimer’s, named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, could affect as many as 5.1 million Americans with more than 11 million acting as caregivers. http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/adfact.htm Typical treatments for Alzheimer’s disease are meant to reduce the effects of symptoms, but do not reverse the disease. This ends up with the quality of life for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s spiraling down the drain in a way that is inevitably painful to watch for their caregivers and others who love them. However, one nursing home has found some success with a new procedure that has raised some eyebrows. The Concept? Give Alzheimer’s patients whatever they want. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/01/health/01care.html?_r=2
Beatitudes nursing home in Phoenix seems like a typical nursing home, but there is one noticeable difference from similar facilities. Alzheimer’s patients at Beatitudes are allowed anything they want. This includes granting such requests such as chocolate bars, toys, or nightcaps. a The state of Arizona once tried to cite the facility for prescribing chocolate, an item the state said was not a medication and could not be categorized by medical coding as any sort of service performed. A nurse at the facility disagreed, asserting that “it’s better than Xanax.”
The approach that Beatitudes uses it not a random new treatment, but a method with some basis in scientific findings. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that dementia facilities with brighter lighting resulted in a decrease in depression and a noticeable return of functional abilities. http://health.msn.com/health–topics/alzheimers–disease/bright–lights–may–improve–dementia–symptoms It shouldn’t be too out of the ordinary that good lighting and a little chocolate, things which can make the rest of us happy, should have an effect on the morale of patients with Alzheimer’s. A 96-year-old woman at Beatitudes illustrates this point- having been previously kicked out of several nursing homes because of her uncontrollable behavior, at Beatitudes she has been much happier, calmer and more relaxed.
The facility has improved its lighting and routinely grants patient’s requests any time of the day or night. This includes giving patients a bath at 2am or a light snack at 4am. The approach is based on research suggesting that positive emotional experiences for Alzheimer’s patients reduces distress and related behavior problems. The National Institute on Aging and the Administration on Aging are financing joint studies on ways to ease the burden on those who care for Alzheimer’s patients and to make the life of Alzheimer’s patients better. M. Stahl, of the Institute on Aging, has called the new method a “good nonpharmacological technique” based on initial results.
Alzheimer’s care facilities have been experimenting with different techniques to keep patients both happy and safe. A facility in Germany has placed fake bus stop signs outside to prevent patients from wandering off of the property. Patients wait for a bus and then eventually get tired of waiting and go back into the facility. Beatitudes has placed black triangle shaped pieces of carpet in front of elevators to prevent Alzheimer’s patients from going into the elevators unescorted. The patients think of the carpet as a cliff or hole and are discouraged from going any further. Additional research is necessary before such techniques are adopted on a widespread scale, but early results are certainly encouraging.
Article submitted by Pat Walling