Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Health

Using sight and sound to trigger dementia patients' memories

EASTON, Pa. — From the antique cast-iron stove in the kitchen to the ancient wood-paneled radio in the living room, the decor in The Easton Home comes straight out of the 1930s, '40s and '50s.

Which is by design. The old-fashioned rooms are in the dementia wing of the elder-care facility and serve an important function. They're intended to make residents feel at home, help them retrieve memories and get them talking about their younger selves.

It's reminiscence as therapy.

"As soon as they walk in, they become comfortable … and it just takes them back to a place that they're familiar with," said Jennifer Woolley, community life coordinator. "They can talk about their stories and share their experiences, so you're just walking into the past, and they love it."

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities increasingly use sight, sound and other sensory cues to stimulate memory and provide a touch of the familiar for people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia — part of a broader shift toward specialized memory units that care for this large and growing segment of the population. About 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer's, a number expected to rise dramatically as Baby Boomers age.

In Olathe, Kansas, the Cedar Lake Village retirement community is building a memory-care assisted-living facility that includes a 1968 Ford pickup in the courtyard for residents to sit in, tinker on, listen to music "and reminisce about their first vehicle," said Joanna Randall, executive director. In England, Grove Care Ltd. has "Memory Lane" at its dementia-care facilities, featuring a 1950s-themed pub, post office and grocery store. The Easton Home, about 50 miles north of Philadelphia, converted two rooms into its own version of Memory Lane.

Experts say dementia sufferers' memories can be triggered by an object, a sound, a smell. Danish researchers found dementia patients placed in a setting that reminded them of their youth were able to summon more autobiographical memories than a group studied in an everyday setting.

While reminiscing won't reverse the progression of Alzheimer's and is not guaranteed to work for everyone, it can improve mood and reduce agitation and wandering, said Ruth Drew, director of family and information services at the Alzheimer's Association.

"Sensory cues are really the secret to providing what we call comfort care," said Marguerite McLaughlin, who's in charge of quality improvement at the American Health Care Association, the country's largest trade group for nursing homes.

Chris Boyce partly credits the surroundings at The Easton Home — and the conversations they start — with making her time with her grandmother more enriching.

They often sit in the kitchen, where an antique ironing board and wringer washing machine recently prompted 90-year-old Olga Deacon, who has dementia, to explain how she used to help her mother with the ironing.

"It took me forever. She'd tell you, 'This has to be straight, that has to be straight.' You had to get the creases straight," recalled Deacon, laughing at the ancient memory.

"It winds up becoming a conversation I wouldn't know to start with her," Boyce said later. "I've learned more about her in the two months she's been here than I think I knew before that in a lot of ways."

Down a hallway, themed "memory walls" devoted to travel, marriage, parenthood, cars, dogs, fishing and the military stoke conversations among residents, staff and family members. Small placards offer prompts — "How did you learn to drive?" — to get residents talking about what life was like 60 or 70 years ago. The home also uses a touch-screen system to engage seniors in stimulating pursuits from puzzles and word games to airings of vintage TV commercials.

Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, said such spaces make sense, but he raised a practical consideration.

"The concept of putting together a memory unit with images and other sounds and other imagery that evoke a certain time raises the question of what time, what images, when and how to update," he said. "But I'd rather have those conversations and debates than not have them."

In The Easton Home's retro living room, 81-year-old resident Decima Assise, who has Alzheimer's, danced cheek-to-cheek with her longtime companion, Harry Lomping, to "Maria Elena," a 1941 chart-topper for Jimmy Dorsey. The song wafted from an iPod hidden inside the radio cabinet.

"When the music comes on, she wants to dance," said Lomping, 84, who visits Assise nearly every day. "I think it revives something, some feelings."

Comments
Pinellas is at the center of a rise in Florida flu outbreaks

Pinellas is at the center of a rise in Florida flu outbreaks

Feeling a little sniffly or scratchy or stuffed up? It may be the flu, and you don’t want to wait around to see a doctor this year. This is not the time to write off flu-like symptoms, Tampa Bay area health officials and doctors warn. The influenza v...
Updated: 1 hour ago

CDC says ‘There’s lots of flu in lots of places.’ And it’s not going away anytime soon.

A nasty flu season is in full swing across the United States, with a sharp increase in the number of older people and young children being hospitalized, federal health officials said Friday.The latest weekly data from the Centers for Disease Control ...
Published: 01/12/18
Mease Countryside Hospital begins $156M expansion project

Mease Countryside Hospital begins $156M expansion project

SAFETY HARBOR — Mease Countryside Hospital is launching a $156 million expansion to build a four-story patient tower with all private rooms and a four-story parking garage.The tower will include 70 private patient rooms, a 30-bed observation unit, cr...
Published: 01/11/18
Flu shot? This is why you should still get one this year

Flu shot? This is why you should still get one this year

This year’s flu season is shaping up to be a bad one. Much of the country endured a bitterly cold stretch, causing more people to be crowded together inside. The strain that has been most pervasive, H3N2, is nastier than most. And, we’re being told, ...
Published: 01/11/18
He was 21 and fit. He tried to push through the flu — and it killed him.

He was 21 and fit. He tried to push through the flu — and it killed him.

Kyler Baughman seemed to be the face of fitness. The 21-year-old aspiring personal trainer filled his Facebook page with photos of himself riding motorbikes and lifting weights. He once posted an image of a kettlebell with a skeleton, reading: "Cros...
Published: 01/11/18
Serena Williams tells scary story of childbirth complications

Serena Williams tells scary story of childbirth complications

The image on the cover of the February issue of Vogue features Serena Williams proudly showing off her adorable daughter.The story she tells of the changes wrought on her life by the arrival of Alexis Olympia, whom she calls by her middle name and ...
Published: 01/11/18
‘Pregnancy centers’ draw scrutiny as lawmakers seek to elevate their status

‘Pregnancy centers’ draw scrutiny as lawmakers seek to elevate their status

Annie Filkowski used to see the signs during her drive to school each morning. "Free pregnancy tests," they said.So when she feared she might be pregnant at 16, shortly after starting to have sex with her boyfriend, she remembered them. And walked in...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/12/18
Analysis: St. Petersburg ranked among 'worst places to die'

Analysis: St. Petersburg ranked among 'worst places to die'

Where do you want to die? When asked, the vast majority of Americans answer with two words: "At home." Despite living in a country that delivers some of the best health care in the world, we often settle for end-of-life care that is inconsistent wit...
Published: 01/10/18
Obamacare enrollment remained strong in Florida, despite obstacles

Obamacare enrollment remained strong in Florida, despite obstacles

While health insurance sign-ups through the Affordable Care Act dipped slightly across the nation for 2018, Floridians bought plans at nearly the same levels as last year despite a much shorter enrollment period, a smaller budget for promotion and re...
Published: 01/10/18
Defending against this season’s deadly flu: 5 things to know

Defending against this season’s deadly flu: 5 things to know

The nation is having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad flu season.Flu is widespread in 46 states, according to reports to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Nationally, as of mid-December, at least 106 people had died fro...
Published: 01/09/18