It’s one of the certainties of dementia: creating a calm environment for those suffering with the disease can help ease symptoms. Here in the U.S., however, the tradition has been to medicate nursing home residents with the disease, a confusing tactic given that limited activity and isolation have been shown to contribute to the advancement of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Nursing homes in the Netherlands have been taking an alternative approach to treating dementia patients, using visual and sensory stimulation, as well as social interactions, to relax and lift the moods of their residents.
Bars, Beach Rooms, Bus Stops and Shared Experiences: Alternative Dementia Treatment
According to the New York Times, researchers began considering alternative treatments to treating dementia patients when they realized the growing number of Dutch senior citizens suffering from the disease. Nearly 8.5% of the country’s residents over 64 have dementia, with that number expected to double within 7 years.
Management of dementia symptoms is a large burden for elder care workers. With the disease often comes mood swings and frustration, which can lead to those suffering from the condition to react irrationally and even aggressively. Oftentimes the outburst is borne from the inability to remember or to explain something, a frustration rightly deserved. Management of stress or stressful situations (loud noises, complex tasks, or confusing, new situations) is believed to help reduce symptoms. While there is no cure for dementia, Dutch experts believe management of stress will ultimately lead to a reduction in the amount of medication needed to keep dementia symptoms under control.
In an effort to keep residents happy, stress-free, and relaxed, nursing homes in the Netherlands have added spaces in which residents can “escape” and relive a past memory or have new experiences.
A nursing home called Houttuinen in the town of Haarlem has what they call a beach room, designed to make residents feel as if they are really at the beach. Residents can put their toes in the sand, feel the heat of the sun and the sea breeze, and hear the waves hitting the shore. All of these sensory experiences are due to the staff’s hard work. They have brought in sand, heat lamps, and sound and fan machines to recreate the feeling of relaxing by the ocean.
Another facility has a cafe where residents can actually consume alcohol while socializing with other residents, while another has a bus stop where residents mingle with each other or loved ones who come to visit. And over 500 nursing homes in the Netherlands have purchased a bike simulator that allows residents to pretend they are cycling, alone or with a friend, to destinations they might recognize from childhood.
The New York Times also describes how Dutch nursing homes are incorporating homey touches such as furniture and decor from many residents’ younger days, as well as adding tablecloths and flower arrangements. Other facilities are placing small groups of residents’ rooms into areas with shared living spaces, so that activities such as food preparation, tv watching, knitting, or card playing happen in a smaller family room or kitchen type setting that feels almost familial.
Treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s is always about management of symptoms. There is no cure for the progressive disease and the focus is always on keeping the patient comfortable and relaxed. Medication certainly can help, but many are turning away from relying on drugs to keep themselves or their loved ones safe and happy. One of the largest side effects of dementia is depression. By Dutch nursing homes using alternative treatment methods that increase socialization and even physical activity, many hope that residents will feel more fulfilled and will have more opportunities for happiness.
Let Levin & Perconti Help You
We are Levin & Perconti, a top Chicago personal injury law firm. For nearly 30 years our attorneys have focused on seeking justice for those who have been abused or neglected in nursing homes in the Chicago-area, as well as throughout the state of Illinois. Our extensive experience fighting nursing homes has given us the advantage of knowing how they operate, allowing us to get the truth and successfully settle or litigate your case. We have handled numerous cases in which dementia patients have been overmedicated, often to make the staff’s job easier.
Your loved one shouldn’t have to spend their golden years in a medicated fog simply because the staff is overwhelmed. If you suspect this has happened or is happening to someone you love, contact Levin & Perconti now for a FREE consultation with one of our attorneys. Call us toll-free at 1-877-374-1417, in Chicago at (312) 332-2872, or complete our online case evaluation form.