The Boston Globe, part two in the series on the use of anti-psychotics in nursing homes, offers a look at alternatives. The article focuses on a nursing home, The Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley and how they do not have anyone on these medications for behavioral issues. According to the data released by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, they scored a 0%. How do they do it?
The approach is multilayered both with the individual and the physical layout. The staff, Boston Globe writer Kay Lazar states, ” try to tailor care to each resident, to make it familiar and comforting. Staffers conb residents’ past to learn their preferences, hobbies, and accomplishments, tapping bedrock emotions that endure long after memories fade.” Once this is accomplished, the staff can begin to understand what might trigger behavioral outbursts or agitation. They can initiate care plans to decrease potential triggers.
The Alzheimer’s wing has a circular hallway, so those who wonder do not get agitated by reaching an end. They also have llamas and goats that are in the front lawn. The llamas are even brought into the wing to be petted. The literature has shown that animals can be calming and soothing for people with dementia.
The administration believes it is important for the staff to be trained effectively in how to deal with people with dementia without using medications. It is the culture of the institution from the top down. This includes the medical team who supports this approach.
I have visited this nursing home and can verify what was said in the article. The staff I met were open and communicative. There was a real feeling that the facility was patient centered. I saw the llamas. When I took a family member to visit, the admissions person asked if we would like to meet the llamas. I think that was a first for me. I like that sense of personal interaction. Unfortunately, there is over a six month waiting list to get in.
For me, what both articles illustrate, is how important it is to ask about the use of these medications when searching for a long term care facility. When an institution is actively seeking ways to enhance the lives of the elderly residents, I am impressed. I can say, there aren’t many.