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Nursing home takes a different approach in caring for Alzheimer's patients

BOOSTER SHOTS: Oddities, musings and news from the
health world

January 03, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health

Anyone who has a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease knows the heartbreak and frustration of caring for Mom or Grandpa. Now nursing homes with Alzheimer's patients are trying novel approaches that add a heavy dose of TLC to the equation.

This Newport News Daily Press story profiles one Virginia facility that encourages patients to cook, iron or perform other household tasks if they so choose. "What we're really trying to do is create home," Barbara Dearmon, Riverside Health System's memory support adviser, says in the story. "Most people want to be in their home, but there comes a time in this disease state where that's not possible." Check out the full story here.

Of course none of this cures the disease; there's no known cause or treatment for the estimated 5.3 million Americans living with Alzheimer's. But the approach of this nursing facility and others points to the importance of creating an environment that recognizes individual needs. The Alzheimer's Assn. explains it this way:

"No two people experience Alzheimer's disease in the same way. As a result, there's no one approach to caregiving. Your responsibilities can range from making financial decisions, managing changes in behavior, to helping a loved one get dressed in the morning. Handling these duties is hard work. But by learning caregiving skills, you can make sure that your loved one feels supported and is living a full life. You can also ensure that you are taking steps to preserve your own well-being."

Showing support, however, can be difficult, especially when even basic things like communication start to fail. These tips from the National Institute on Aging can help:

Choose simple words and short sentences and use a gentle, calm tone of voice.

Avoid talking to the person with Alzheimer's like a baby or talking about the person as if he or she weren't there.

Minimize distractions and noise, such as the television or radio, to help the person focus on what you are saying.

Make eye contact and call the person by name, making sure you have his or her attention before speaking.

Allow enough time for a response. Be careful not to interrupt.

If the person with Alzheimer's is struggling to find a word or communicate a thought, gently try to provide the word he or she is looking for.

Try to frame questions and instructions in a positive way.

Be open to the person's concerns, even if he or she is hard to understand.

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