Like the old TV show said give me the simple life, Beatitudes in Phoenix, AZ. allows its patients like Ms. Nance, 96, afflicted with Alzheimer’s, “to sleep, be bathed and dine whenever she wants, even at 2 a.m. She could eat anything, too, no matter how unhealthy, including unlimited chocolate.
And she was given a baby doll, a move that seemed so jarring that a supervisor initially objected until she saw how calm Ms. Nance became when she rocked, caressed and fed her “baby,” often agreeing to eat herself after the doll “ate” several spoonfuls.
Dementia patients at Beatitudes are allowed practically anything that brings comfort, even an alcoholic “nip at night,” said Tena Alonzo, director of research. “Whatever your vice is, we’re your folks,” she said.
Once, Ms. Alonzo said: “The state tried to cite us for having chocolate on the nursing chart. They were like, ‘It’s not a medication.’ Yes, it is. It’s better than Xanax.”
It is an unusual posture for a nursing home, but Beatitudes is actually following some of the latest science. Research suggests that creating positive emotional experiences for Alzheimer’s patients diminishes distress and behavior problems.”
In desperation medical people are trying many different non-drug approaches to their care.There is no effective medical treatment for Alzheimer’s yet, most dementia therapy is the care giving performed by families and nursing homes. Some 11 million people care for Alzheimer’s-afflicted relatives at home. In nursing homes, two-thirds of residents have some dementia.
Caregiving support training a priority
Caregiving is considered so crucial that several federal and state agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, are adopting research-tested programs to support and train caregivers. This month, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a forum about Alzheimer’s care giving.
“There’s actually better evidence and more significant results in caregiver interventions than there is in anything to treat this disease so far,” said Lisa P. Gwyther, education director for the Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Duke University.
The National Institute on Aging and the Administration on Aging are now financing caregiving studies on “things that just kind of make the life of an Alzheimer’s patient and his or her caregiver less burdensome,” said Sidney M. Stahl, chief of the Individual Behavioral Processes branch of the Institute on Aging.
Techniques include using food, scheduling, art, music and exercise to generate positive emotions; engaging patients in activities that salvage fragments of their skills; and helping caregivers be more accepting and competent.
Caregiving at Beatitudes in Phoenix, AZ. takes on a wholistic individualized tender loving care, hopefully more organizations and institutions will follow this model.
Excerpts and Image courtesy of http://nyti.ms/egVcG1