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Planning Retirement Online

Beyond the Headlines

September 2012

 

By Jeanne DavisJeanne Davis

Each month our resident writer and commentator Jeanne Davis goes behind recent news stories to comment on various ideas and subjects that have special resonance for our age group.

Written in her usual thought provoking and entertaining style, we know you will enjoy this addition every month

 


ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS FOR DEMENTIA

A Comfort-and-Joy Approach

Night times can be gruelling for caregivers. Dementia can wreak havoc on an individual’s sleep cycle, leading to sleeplessness, night terrors, wandering or agitation.

“We heard the pleas of family caregivers who weren’t sleeping at night and couldn’t function the next day,” says Deborah M. Messina, adult day and evening services director at the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, N.Y. “It was leading to family tension and premature nursing home placement.”

To help, the home began offering adult day services – at night. Those enrolled can socialise, potter in the garden, do yoga, paint, cook, listen to live music or get a mini massage. They receive prescribed meds, plus physical, aroma and light therapy. “If they want to walk through the halls at 3 a.m. staff members are there,” says Messina.

“Thank God for this program. Otherwise, I would have had to put my mother in a nursing home,” says her daughter. Ever since her mother had a stroke that led to vascular dementia in 1998 at age 54, she has been at ElderServe seven nights a week.

“I know she’s socialising, which she doesn’t have at home. She’s in a clique. They reminisce about old times and tell dirty jokes.” She also has a new boyfriend.

The focus at Beatitudes in Phoenix, AZ is on comfort. “We want to do for people what they would do for themselves if they could,” says Tena Alonzo, director of research.

Part of being comfortable means determining individual schedules. If residents want a martini before dinner or a bath at 3 a.m. they get it. They sleep and eat when they want, and do only activities that interest them. A retired nurse, for example, might sit at a nurse’s station and “help” by writing notes. “It’s something she’s done all her life and is meaningful,” says Alonzo.

For the last several years, Maryjane and her husband Louis, cared for his mother and father. But a stroke last July landed mother Gisa, 92, in a nursing facility. “It was a nightmare,” says Maryjane. “Every time we turned around, they’d introduce a new drug.” Within a month her personality changed from sweet and loving to out of control.

A physician suggested Beatitudes, where she was taken off the drugs. “The first thing the nurse said was that there were no rules there; they go with the flow,'” says Maryjane. Nurses now play the piano so Gisa can sing. She doesn’t remember anyone or anything, says Maryjane, but knows every word to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
“The staff and administrators are caring, and that calms the residents and us,” says Maryjane. “My mother-in-law is now happy, which gives us peace of mind beyond belief.”

These examples of innovative treatments were reported in the July-August Bulletin, a publication of AARP, a United States association of more than 35 million members. Founded in 1958, their remit is to improve the lives and promote the well being of people over 50.through publications, low-cost services, lobbying for older people’s rights, grants for research into aging and a nationwide network of community programmes.

I worked at AARP for many years, setting up programmes and developing membership. For me now it is a valuable source of keeping abreast of all that is new in the field of midlife and aging.

What a pleasure to read reports like the above describing comfort and care treatments which can give us so much hope, rather than the ubiquitous stories of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers prescriptive formulas for their charges. They enforce set schedules, use antipsychotic drugs for calming and don’t emphasise fun in their regimens. But programmes such as these above with unconventional approaches are seeing remarkable results in individuals. And I am sure you can imagine the moments of joy and relief the results bring to the family and friends of the patients.

 

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