Yesterday we discussed the new book “Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of the Care” where a doctor argued for a new outlook on dementia care. The physician, who has decades of experience with patients experiencing cognitive disease as they age, argues that instead of focusing solely on the disease itself, the overall patient must be considered.
Admittedly, it is easier to grasp this general principle than it is to understand exactly what that means in terms of caregiving at nursing home and other assisted living facilities. Perhaps most obviously, the book is a call for less dependence on medications to control the symptoms of dementia. Instead, more individualized care plan need to be crafted which take the unique challenges of a resident with dementia into account.
Unique Nighttime Programs
A Wall Street Journal article offers one unique approach to this alternative care. According to the story, one community essentially offers overnight parties for those suffering from dementia. The events–which start at 10pm and last until sunrise–are all about helping those with dementia who often struggle mightily sleeping through the night. It is not uncommon for those with the disease to either not sleep at all or wake up in the middle of the night severely agitated or fearful.
To help, these “night camps” offer structured singing, therapy sessions, crafts, and games to provide an alternative avenue of care for those with cognitive challenges. While located in a nursing home, the programs are opened to all local residents. In this way, even at-home caregivers (often relatives) are able to enjoy a bit of respite from caring for their loved one.
For example, one man who is caring for his father explained that “without this program, my father would be lost, and I would be crazy. He doesn’t sleep. At night he’s wide awake, and he needs activity.”
The programs offer a wide range of services. Some rooms in the facility have relaxing nature sounds, other provide movies with popcorn. At times, residents who are able take mini-field trips around the area, perhaps to look at Christmas lights or other local sights.
Unfortunately, this program, which runs literally every night, is rare. In fact, one official from the Alzheimer’s Association noted that she knew of only one in existence. The main problem is the cost. Providing structured support, caregivers, and facilities every night is not cheap.
Some elder care organizations, advocates, lawyers, and others are pushing for more funding to support these programs. The one facility that currently provides the program receives about $140 a night per resident and $74 in transportation costs from Medicaid. However, as with all public financing, it is extremely difficult to get any increases for novel programs, particularly those that are not directly related to life and death or basic care needs. Yet, there may be hope for these sorts of programs if officials can be convinced that they offer an alternative to a nursing home. If more family caregivers are able to continue living with their loved one with these novel programs, then the overall nursing home costs might be lower.
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