It is a whole new idea allowing Alzheimer’s patients to do exactly what they want on their own terms, and doctors say this new approach is giving patients the comfort and independence they need to thrive.
91-year-old Winnie plays, sings, and gets some love from man’s best friend.
For Winnie and others with Alzheimer’s, this is a place where anything goes. It is Beatitudes, a nursing facility with one goal: to let patients do what they want.
Registered nurse Christine Parish says, “We try to adhere to their schedule here.”
That means patients can go to sleep and wake up when they want, and they can eat, or not eat, whatever they live, even a glass of wine or a shot of whiskey now and then. Most nursing homes emphasize the importance of rules and schedules, but not this one.
Meryl Salit, the Healthcare Center Administrator at Beatitudes says, “Of course, we provide their care, as needed, by doctor's orders, but other than that, there are no requirements. You can sleep all day. You can have anything you want. You can have chocolate for lunch, or no lunch at all."
With this approach, residents and their families report a better quality of life, staff members stay longer, and costs are lower.
Jackie Davidson’s mom, Selma, has had Alzheimer’s for 10 years. Before the disease struck, she loved being a mom and enjoyed housework.
Jackie says, "I asked them to give her a dust rag and let her dust."
Jackie says the Beatitudes philosophy gives her peace of mind.
"She can do whatever she wants to do, whenever she wants to do it."
Experts here say some mistakes caregivers make are expecting the Alzheimer’s patient to get better, not incorporating the patient’s previous passions into their everyday life, and being too specific. For example, if an Alzheimer’s patient asks where her deceased husband is, it is better to say, “He can’t be here right now,” instead of “He died four years ago.” That will answer the question without forcing the patient to re-live the pain.
Most of all, these nurses say it is about listening, letting the patients make their own decisions, and showing them love.
The approach used at Beatitudes is based on research suggesting that positive emotional experiences for Alzheimer’s patients reduce stress and related behavior problems.
BACKGROUND: Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than five-million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, and of those five million, over 230 thousand live in nursing homes. A new nursing facility, Beatitudes, is using a lenient approach to the disease; it provides residents and their families with a better quality of life. (Source: Alzheimer's Association, CDC)
NOT THE AVERAGE HOME: Founded in 1965, Beatitudes is a nursing facility located in Phoenix, Arizona that was created to provide care to seniors who prefer independent living options for their lifestyle. If extra care is needed, home care services and assisted living are also available.
PHILOSPHY: The philosophy followed by the nurses at Beatitudes is to listen, let patients make their own decisions, and show them love. Evidence shows that caregiver interventions provide more significant results to treat this disease than any other treatment thus far. Beneficial care giving techniques include using food, art, music, and exercise to generate positive emotions and engage patients in activities that salvage their passions and skills.
REMOVING DISCOMFORTS: The nursing facility eliminated any objects or obstacles that may be considered restraining to their patients, such as deep-seated wheelchairs that make it more difficult for patients to stand up. The staff also drastically reduced the distribution of antipsychotics and certain medications. The facility reviews residents' biographies in order to soothe their patients and make them feel at home. They program their activities so more patients, staff, and family members can participate, such as block-building, coloring, and simply conversing with one another.
SOURCE: (Belluck, Pam. Giving Alzheimer's Patients Their Way, Even Chocolate. New York Times; December 31, 2010, beatitudescampus.org)
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