In recent years there has been a push to alter care for seniors with dementia. Most arguments about superior elder care focus on limiting medication-only treatment options. These “chemical restraints” are still overused, with seniors in many nursing homes lulled into a near-stupor as a result of antipsychotic medication. In overcrowded or understaffed long-term care facilities, these drugs are often the only way that caregivers feel that they can handle the challenges that come with dementia and Alzheimer’s care.
However, just because medication is the most common way to deal with a resident with dementia does not mean that it is the best way. In fact, many elder care advocates argue that the best care steers clear of overuse of medication and provides tailored care that focuses on the individual senior and not the cognitive disease.
What does that individual care look like? One Bronx nursing home is receiving national plaudits for its work on the issue.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week on the “ElderServe at Night” program sponsored by the Hebrew Home at Riverdale. The program is apparently the only one in existence anywhere in the country. Essentially it is a program that runs every single night from 10pm until sunrise, providing a wide range of activities for seniors suffering from dementia. There are several dozen participants every night–including nursing home residents and seniors being cared for at home by relatives.
What many fail to appreciate is the sleeping challenges faced by those with dementia. Many caregivers note that those with dementia either sleep little over the night or become very agitated and scared in the nighttime darkness. This program solves the problem by provided around-the-clock activities for those seniors who need it. Those activities include late-night field trips, crafts, dancing, movies, and more.
Perhaps the most novel aspect of the program is the way that it might limit nursing home admissions. Those running the program note that anecdotal evidence suggests that the #1 reason many caregivers have to move a relative into a nursing home is because of trouble at night. Seniors with dementia are often up and wandering around the home at night–making noise in the kitchen or sometimes even unknowingly leaving the house. This presents a huge risk to the senior and often makes it impossible for the caregiver to sleep.
The late night programs solve that by creating an overnight outlet–helping the caregiver receive respite while providing services that the seniors need.
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