“Turning Back the Clock”

A care home in the U.K. has created a room full of memory triggers for people living with dementia. They find that the triggers help unlock memories and improve well-being. They have decreased antipsychotic use by 70% as a result.

It’s worth a look. Personally, I think that the benefit comes not only from the memory triggers, but also from the relative quiet of the space and the 1-on-1 facilitated engagement that is also provided.

Here’s the video:



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3 Responses to “Turning Back the Clock”

  1. oxigen says:

    Omigod. So true.
    Why then, as a primary caregiver, do I have to constantly fight the bureaucracies of ‘care giving’, and even those semi Eden accredited? It’s truly strange.
    See below for a message I sent to Bill Thomas days ago. Not a word in response. Could you perhaps respond, Al Power?
    When an Eden-accredited facility suggests that a client takes antipsychotics to make their working lives more fluid and comfortable, what next?
    I truly find it weird. After all, as a sole and apparently untrained person, I have very adequately managed my now advanced dementia ‘patient’ for the last 4 years in an independent living situation. I care her for 227 hours in every week. They care for her for 20 hours. They have a ‘team’ of apparent professionals. I am on my own. They’re complaining. I’m not. They’re telling me that they’re not funded to provide one-on-one care. But isn’t that what people with dementia require? That is, unless they’re drugged.
    I’m really tired of this ‘fight’.
    I’ve been through it before, 2 years ago, when this same same semi Eden-accredited day centre tossed out my mother over a toileting issue. They claimed it was ‘highly u nusual’; I claimed it was a commonweal expression of dementia. They wanted to put her into a psychiatric facility for older adults ‘with mental health disorders ‘to be observed and reviewed. My whole family renegged. As I said at the time,
    ‘My mother doesn’t have a mental health disease; she has Alzheimers’. For six long weeks my energies were not focussed on my dementia ‘patient’, while she was here day in and day out, but in writing endless letters and attending ridiculous meetings. And would you believe, with not a whisp of support provided by this apparently ‘concerned about dementia’ organisation.
    I feel this same situation is rising again.
    And all because the semi Eden-accredited facility finds her inconvenient – because in her advanced dementia, she’s not sedated with antipsychotics and therefore making their day plan a little more fluid… just like almost everyone else.
    Can you per-lease comment, Al Power. I have your book. It’s brilliant.. No one at this semi Eden-accredited day centre seems to know about you or your writings. Very odd.
    This particular day centre sits within an organisation that is funded to the tune of millions and millions of dollars – ever-generously, every year, from both state and federal governments. In my view, it’s all about priority.
    So here goes, and as below, my note to Bill Thomas a few days ago:

    So very gorgeous to meet you in person, Bill, and also Caleb. And thank you for such a prodding talk on aging. I’ll be commenting on this down the track.
    But to cut to the chase: When in Perth, and at the Mary Chester Day Centre [apparently 0.5 accredited as an Eden Alternative facility, and for those who don’t know, fully run by Alzheimers WA], you apparently told staff that if a ‘client’ expressed unusual levels of distress, you’d give your imprimateur to a prescription of antipsychotics. I now know you were consulted about this by staff who were targeting my very own mother, if not by name. [By the way, my mama is not violent or aggressive, or non-compliant. She simply talks endlessly, sometimes to others, often to herself. It can be extremely wearing, to be sure — but not insurmountable. Above and over that, she is very loving, gentle and tactile, and always expresses great gratitude for even the smallest mercy.]
    I’m in a wee bit of quandry here.
    I have visited this day centre often enough to know that many of the ‘clients’ are either [1] in earlier phases of dementia, or [2] drugged to the eyeballs. In view of 2, I see all of the signs: mask-like faces, shakiness, feet-shuffling et al. Thing is, I’ve just never given my mother drugs to temper her behaviour. In my view, this is her final phase of life, and I really do want her to be as clear as possible, even in dementia … and right to the end. If she expresses distress, then all of us around her need to be prepared for this, and lead her through with kindness, and non-judgement for current and commonweal expressions of dementia.
    Yet I have a sneaking suspicion that such a large percentage of our elders with dementia — whether presenting in day centres or tidied away in nursing homes, are so behaviour-controlled with antipsychotics, oxazepam, diazepam, et al. that even professional carers no longer recognise and accept true expressions of dementia.
    What happens, of course, is that when someone like my mother presents with the regular symptoms of advanced dementia, they’re in shock. They think it’s a little out of the ordinary. They don’t know what to do. They want to bring in the psychiatrists. They secretly pray for a resort to drugs — because of course she’d then be like everyone else: compliant to the core… and whispering quiet.
    Really interesting that your colleague, Dr Al Power, has written an extremely well-argued treatise on treating dementia without drugs. Earlier in this blog Al Power said to me that no amount of allopathic or naturopathic medicines will do the trick. If a person is distressed, they have ‘unmet needs’. He said this over and over again.
    I have two questions.
    1. When you devised the Eden philosophy, did you account for the reality that people at end-stages of dementia may require one-on-one care? If so, would you accredit facilities that won’t/can’t provide this level of care?
    2. Harking back to my observation that almost all professional carers no longer even recognise or accept true expressions of dementia [because they’re clouded by the currently favoured and convenient culture of drugs and control], how then do you, as instigator of the Eden philosophy, catapult them back into reality and solutions?
    I don’t really mean for you to answer this last question here now in this blog, but I raise it because I’m getting the impression that all the NGOs funded to support independently living people with dementia really only want to deal with ‘perfect’ dementia expressions. Believe me, I have an ever-expanding catalogue of real-life experiences.
    And this includes your evolving Mary Chester Centre.
    I now have a third question:
    Why would you even begin to accredit an NGO that is not prepared to properly fund your whole vision?
    Surely you’re not that desperate.

    • Karen Overturf says:

      I believe culture change is such a new idea that the people who are most responsible to see the change (ie. the regulators and administrators) are still in the old phase of “protect” the frail and elderly at all costs… extend their lives by medication and forget that “quality of life” makes life worth living. Introducing that level of risk is scary for some people as they worry about family members who feel their elder shouldn’t have been allowed to live one day less, or other residents’ family members who worry that this “crazy” person will somehow harm their loved one. It’s kind of like a supercharged “change your life” motivation conference, and you step out the door ready to tackle the world, and life as it is brings you to a full stop.

      You are to be commended for your efforts. The administrator is the person to whom staff must go to request your loved one’s dismissal (or sedation), and you feel it’s you against 10 others. I agree with Dr. Power, that the first thing you should do is buy a copy of that book for the administrator! I’d put a post-it note in the research results section, and ask the administrator if I can have a lunch appointment when he/she is done reading it!

      You have an excellent guide in Dr. Power’s book. Please see my advice below as what I, personally, would do, and keep in mind that it may not necessarily translate to a good activity for you.

      As an advocate for my loved one, I would actively demonstrate the activity changes I would like to see. When my loved one was in long term care (here in the states), I tried to encourage her to seek out people she could talk with, without much success (she didn’t like being around “old people”) – she was dealing with severe physical disabilities, and was mentally sharp until the day she died. After a couple of years, I had an opportunity and introduced her to an active lady I knew, who was also in the care centre. They formed a fast friendship, and life was a little more tolerable for them both.

      If you don’t already know, find out from staff which resident has a similar background as your mom, and help your mom make a new friend. Initiate the visit, asking the other resident if she (or he) would mind a visit, invite your mom, and ask questions that may relate to years ago. You may find them chatting away over their memories, and both happy.

      Doing things like this may have two results, one, you may have something to show staff, as regards how redirecting a distraught resident may result in a calmer and more comfortable environment. Two, you may learn that a different attempt will have more success, and how truly difficult it is to try new approaches, and the time it consumes. Having a sense of what it takes to achieve culture change will lead you to more information, and more new experiences! We can’t be willing to stop trying. Our future depends on our actions, and our success!

      I can promise one thing for certain – peace. Your mom will know that you’re making an effort, and the attention will give her some peace. Your mom’s staff will appreciate that you’re trying to make life a little easier for two people under their care and they will feel some relief!

      I’ve asked for follow up comments to be sent, so, I am inviting you to share experiences with me. I’m sure Dr. Power won’t mind our chats together, halfway around the world!

  2. Pingback: Dementia: The Ideal and the Real « ChangingAging.org

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