Giving Alzheimer’s Patients What They Want

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. 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.

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.  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


17 Replies to “Giving Alzheimer’s Patients What They Want”

  1. Giving Alzheimer patients what they want – wow what a concept. It is easy for them to lose track of time so sometimes they are hungry at odd hours. I find that my mom gets frustrated with things and accommodating her requests can ease some of the frustrations she feels.

  2. This seems like such a novel but high impact way to improve the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients in facilities. I know that as my two grandparents rounded out towards the end stages that their sexual libido escalated of all things. It was a bit awkward at first having been raised by them! It broke my heart at times for nurse to deprive them as they regressed into childlike patterns, so I would often indulge them on the side. It seem like every day I see a new article that highlights a new approach to nipping this debilitating disease back.
    This one talks about a newly isolated set of alkaloids blocks a protein that’s known to interfere with the connections and communication between brain cells. Just wanted to share, and thank you for sharing.

  3. Yes, give them what they want. What harm will it cause? I use to buy mini chocolate candy bars for my mother. Oh, she complained about gaining weight, but she would finish a 10 pack in a day. It made her happy and I was happy indulging her.

      1. Hey Lori,

        We are all doing great here. I’m going to check out the radio show probably this afternoon.

        So happy to hear that your Mom is still enjoying her sundaes. That is awesome! It is just my opinion that caregivers should allow their loved ones to continue enjoying the few small pleasures that they can remember. It makes it a little more easier for them and less frustrating for the family member who is suffering from this disease.

        Take care Lori 🙂


      2. HI Michelle

        Glad to hear all is going well with you and the family. Please check out the radio show. I would love to have you on as a guest talking about your experience as a daughter if you are intereted. Let me know.


  4. ………………………….Communicating with Alzheimers Patients…………………… The second step is to try some tips that may make communication with Alzheimers patients easier. How To Effectively Communicate with Alzheimers Patients….It can be difficult and frustrating at times to communicate effectively with someone who has Alzheimers Disease.

  5. Hi Lori,

    I would love to be your guest. What an honor and privilege to help others. I tried clicking on the link you gave me, but it doesn’t work. I tried several times, but nothing. Any suggestions?

    Other than that, hope all is well with you and hope your mom is as comfortable as she can be!

    1. Hi Michelle

      Oh that would be so great to have you on the show!!!! I am excited. Try this link.

      The last show has some technical difficulties with echoing which we are still trying to figure out but that was not normal. I will send a email with details and then we can figure out a date and time for your show!

      thans you so much for being willing to particpate,

      Love ya!


  6. my grandma got the disease and it was just a slow painful sad death she got weaker and weaker couldnt take care of herself forgot my name she died of starvation because she could not swallow and refused a feeding tube i think personaly that people like that should be put out of there misery it was not a fun experience the fact that an opption like that is not given is cruel

    1. HI Isaiah

      I’m sorry this was such a difficult journey for you and your family. I do understand and respect your thoughts even though it is my belief that we need to educate people on how to deal with the disease to remove the fear, anxiety and depression that tends to go hand and hand with it. For me, at this time I couldn’t imagine being without my Mom, even though she has minimal interaction. I have been lucky enough to find new ways to communicate with her. The biggest shift was truly in my own mind.
      Becoming accepting of the disease and what I could not change
      Becoming flexible and spontaneous
      Learning to play again
      Looking for new ways to communicate with my Mother vs just talking
      Concentrating on what is in my life and not on what I feel I’ve lost. I’ve found it is true that we find what we are looking for
      Living with gratitude for what is still in my life

      I pray others find the ability to come to peaceful place with disease and illness.

      May you find peace in your own heart with your Grandma, and hold onto the moments with her that brought you joy.

      thank you for taking the time to write and sharing your pain and thoughts. I respect your honesty as so many would not be so brave. I believe the first step in moving through our pain is recognizing and appreciating it’s depths within us.


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