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Friday, January 21, 2011

Center Focuses On Treating Alzheimer's By Comforting Residents, Not Medicating Them

Eleven million Americans take care of someone with Alzheimer’s disease and two-thirds of all people living in nursing homes have some form of dementia. With so many people dealing with the disease, a center in Phoenix, Ariz. has gained national attention for its groundbreaking approach in treating people with Alzheimer’s.

Beatitudes Campus focuses on providing comfort, instead of medication. In some cases, they’ve found chocolate is more effective at calming distressed residents than medications like Xanax. If residents want to carry a baby doll or eat dinner in the middle of the night, they’re allowed.

The approach is based on scientific research that shows providing a calming environment is an effective therapy for people suffering from dementia. Peggy Mullen, CEO of Beatitudes Campus, and May Vance, whose mother-in-law lives at Beatitudes, join us.

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  • John

    Of course there is less weight loss; they are giving them chocolate.

  • Joel

    I hope that the center also address advanced directives in a compassionate way. Some patients and their families often do not realize that a DNR order is the most appropriate since a full resuscitation is unethical and violent. It takes much education for families to understand this very important issue.

  • Marcia

    As a caregiver X3 (my father and aunt who have passed away, and now my mother), I can attest that the approach Beatitudes is taking is the way to go. I am always mystified that so many health care professionals perfer drugs to what they perceive as indulging the delusions. I look at it as getting into THEIR (the patient’s) reality – and dealing with the issue (anxiety, fear, sadness) from that perspective. It works and, oh, the discoveries you’ll make.

  • Ron Miller

    Enjoyed listening to this piece. Had to chuckle about the chocolates and baby dolls. My mother succumbed to Alzheimers two years ago. In the late stage my brother, her full time care-giver, would often give Mom chocolate ice cream. She loved it. And, he had a collection of teddy bears for her to hug. When she asked about our late father, it was so much kinder to say “he’s out getting a haircut,” or, “he had to work late tonight.”
    Always enjoy your show.

  • http://WBUR.COM Michael Ambrosino

    In the early 70s, when I visited the original hospice created by Cecily Saunders just outside of London, the ward sported a wall full of glass windows, hidden mostly by a jungle of green plants.

    On most of the ten beds could be seen a dog or cat.

    At four in the afternoon, the “trolley” came around, not with tea, but with stronger brew for a population previously used to their visit to the “local”, a favorite pub.

    The well thought out plan was to provide comfort and variety. Not a bad idea for any institution dealing with end of life care.

  • David, TN

    This is such good information, My mom at 81 is currently in a Nursing Facility suffering from Dementia. These women know what they are talking about. Thank you so much Robin for having them on.

  • Jim

    John , the weight loss has nothing to do with chocolate…. You were not listening, she said that we should not be concerned with making our parent with this condition conform to our dietary habits.

  • Rit a McKillip

    Is there a link or report that goes into details on how to provide better care for patients with dementia. It would be good to share such news with care givers as well as nursing homes.

  • Kevin Sullivan

    We received quite a few recommendations for the Alzheimer’s Assoc. They have local branches and lots of info online.
    Here’s a link:

    Thanks for listening,
    Kevin Sullivan
    H&N Producer

  • Tawna Ditmer

    I happen to know that the Social Workers at the Beatitudes are well trained, highly compassionate people who spend time educating families about the disease process while helping them decide what their loved one would want if they knew their own circumstances. Thank you to the Beatitudes and NPR for bringing this issue to the public.

  • Catana L Barnes

    I think this is a wonderful approach. Compassion and empathy are invaluable with regards to the human psyche.

  • H.P. Maxwell

    Great story and so encouraging to hear about the great work of Beatitudes Campus. Their approach is a confirmation of what I read in the book, “Embracing Dementia – A Call to Love” where the author shares about her CEO husband becoming “little” and how she responded to him “where he was in the present moment.” Her blog and radio shows continue to develop that philosophy of responding to ALZ. We need more of this!

  • Nefertmu

    I think this is a wonderful approach, but the fact is that Alzheimers is a curable disease. Whether by wheat grass and raw foods at the Optimum Health Institute; or MMS (Miracle Mineral Supplement) where I’ve read a testimonial from someone who used to be demented and came out of it while using MMS; or with Meritan (African) and Caribbean herbs at http://www.TheFigTreeOnline.com–the Fig Tree has also documented healing AIDS, lupus, cancer, diabetes, alzheimers, and even insanity with wild herbs specifically chosen to remove inflammation from the body (inflammation is the main cause of all disease); or whether it’s with something like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) which has been used on several different kinds of diseases and even on animals.

    Just because this lady’s an expert on caregiving doesn’t mean she knows about any of these places or techniques. In fact, I bet she doesn’t have a clue.

  • Callie

    I endured 3 years of hell while the nursing home my mother was in battled me about my mother’s DNR. She had Alzheimer’s, congestive heart failure, she was paralyzed from the waist down from a stroke and was wheelchair bound – totally unable to transfer or dress herself. She was also a private pay patient, so it was in their best interest to rush her to the hospital every time she sneezed. She finally passed, quietly, after I begged an ombundsman to intercede on her behalf to get her into hospice. It was almost criminal. To hear this story restored my faith in homes – this is how they should spend their final days, not hooked up to tubes and wires. Let them have chicken fried steak every single meal if that’s what they want! Who cares about their blood pressure or sodium intake at that point. Heck, I’ll probably take up smoking again when I am in those shoes….

  • John

    Jim, it was a joke and I posted before she stated that.

  • Susan

    How do I find a place like this in Indiana? My dad has only been in the nursing home Alzheimer’s wing for three weeks and is heavily sedated with Zyprexa, Sertraline, Ativan and also taking aricept and namenda. He is in a wheel chair now and it was suggested this week that he might not be walking again. How can this be?!

    I was told by the Alzheimer’s org and the doctor that men with agitation/aggression are a growing problem for nursing home and there is no good solution at this time.

  • Nicki Kirkeby

    Thank you for airing this insightful piece. My mother was diagnosed about 3 years ago with Lewy Body Syndrome, the most prevelent type of dimentia after Alzheimers. I and my sisters and aunt have attended workshops at the Beatitudes for caregivers and it has really been beneficial. Our family has learned to celebrate the tasks that our mother can still do and feel blessed to be able to still care for her in her own home.

    How refreshing to see treatments like chocolate, tailoring schedules around the Alzheimer’s time clock, children and pets being used to comfort these individuals who work so hard to do things the way their relatives want them to do.

    I know Peggy personally (she is my cousin) and she is an amazing person with such compassion for helping seniors. It is thrilling to see her be able to implement this type of innovative program through their Board and Staff! We are so lucky to have this type of innovation available to individuals with Alzheimers.

    I would also like to recommend the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix. Their staff is also innovative and provide an incredible level of support through programs for patients with dimentia.


    Nicki Kikeby

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