There is a scenario that plays out on a daily basis at nursing homes that many of us do not have the opportunity to see. It is perhaps highlighted perfectly in the case of Norma, a 92-year-old nursing home resident that would tell the staff every night at 5:30 PM that she had to leave. They would ask her why and she would say that she had to take care of her mother, a woman who had passed away many years before.
This type of behavior is common for older people who are suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Walter is a man who also lives at the same facility and every night at 7:30 PM, he would ask the staff for breakfast.
The CEO of Lantern assisted living facilities, Jean Makesh, talked about meeting people with these types of stories every day. Those stories help to inspire him to make some changes at the facility where he worked.
“I thought I knew a lot about elderly care. The more and more time I was spending with my clients, that’s when I realized, ‘Oh my god, I have no clue,'” he said.
One of the biggest issues with Alzheimer’s patients is confusion. Makesh realized that there was a way to minimize those problems. He has always felt that our behavior has an impact on us so he started thinking along those lines.
“What if we design an environment that looks like outside?” he said. “What if I can have a sunrise and sunset inside the building? What if I’m able to have the moon and stars come out? What if I build a unit that takes residents back to the ’30s and ’40s?” he thought.
As it turns out, that was only the beginning of what was done. He looked into sound therapy and purchased carpet that looks like grass. The sky was truly the limit when it came to his ideas.
In the end, the memory care facility he created was truly unique. It was tested at the Lantern’s Madison, Ohio, facility but another two locations will be open this year.
The residents may live in a room or unit but they are actually getting a “home” on a tiny street that may be reminiscent of their old neighborhood.
A boring panel ceiling is not what you will find, but rather, there is a digital sky that gets darker later in the day to help keep their biological clock in tune.
Nature sounds and fresh aromas filled the air throughout the day. Aromatherapy has been shown in some studies to improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.
A Main Street is also available where residents can gather to visit.
Makesh wants to do more than making the residents comfortable, he wants to change how we think about dementia.
When you look at the interior of the rooms, they are very nice!
Makesh does admit that most nursing facilities fall short by creating conflicts by using unnatural environments and schedules. In order to overcome the problem, they may give more antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medications. In essence, they are giving up on someone who has severe dementia.
“In five years, we’re going to [be able to] rehabilitate our clients where they can live independently in our environment,” he said. “In 10 years, we’re going to be able to send them back home.”
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