A Baby Doll and Chocolate may Soothe an Angry person with Alzheimer’s – Will it work for your loved one too?
At Beatitudes Nursing Home in Phoenix, AZ, they accepted a patient who was difficult and had been denied entrance to several other homes because of her poor attitude.
Beatitudes nursing home is different than the ordinary nursing home. Dementia and Alzheimer’s 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.
Beatitude is following some of the most recent research about Alzheimer’s which suggests that creating a positive emotional experience lessens distress and behavior problems. More importantly, it works.
The angry, indifferent patient, who was finally accepted at Beatitudes, had previously refused to eat, had hit staff members as well as other patients, suddenly began to change. 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 first.
“Once,” Ms. Alonzo said in a New York Time article: “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.”
This article makes you stop and think; which would you prefer as a calming balm for your loved one–a baby doll and chocolate or a pill which offers little comfort more than sleep.
The New York Times Article goes on to say, “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.
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.
Some of these new theories about care-giving involve efforts for stopping anti-anxiety or anti-psychotic drugs, used to quell hallucinations or aggression, but potentially harmful to dementia patients, who can be especially sensitive to side effects. Instead, some experts recommend primarily giving drugs for pain or depression, then addressing what might be making patients unhappy.
Even recommendations for cosmetic changes such as to their rooms, buildings, and living quarters may affect their mood.
For behavior management at Beatitudes in Phoenix, AZ, they plumb residents’ biographies, soothing one woman, Ruth Ann Clapper, by dabbing on White Shoulders perfume, which her biographical survey indicated she had worn before becoming ill. Food became available constantly, a canny move, Ms. Dougherty said, because people with dementia might be “too distracted” to eat during group mealtimes, and later “be acting out when what they actually need is food.”
Realizing that nutritious, low-salt, low-fat, doctor-recommended foods might actually discourage people from eating, Ms. Alonzo began carrying chocolate in her pocket. “For God’s sake,” Ms. Mullan said, “if you like bacon, you can have bacon here.”
Comfort food does the same for the Alzheimer’s patient that it does for anyone else, improves mood because it sends the message: ‘it feels good, therefore I must be in a place where I’m loved.’
And–what more could we ask for our loved ones!
If you’re sending a gift to a loved one in a nursing home or hospital, think–Comfort.
Bring their favorite Chocolate, or snack. Bring their favorite scent of cologne or after shave, a cologne that you know they wore before they entered the hospital or nursing home.
A hobby, favorite reading material. Remember folks with dementia love baby dolls and puppies. Put thought into your decision–And send a gift with love attached.
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