By Lisa Cini, ASID
In many senior care facilities across the country, Alzheimer's treatment is finally taking a more common sense approach: effectively caring for the individual’s wants and desires to make their life as pleasant as possible. This means that if the resident desires chocolate, they get it!
The biggest issue with combining comfort foods and care is that states try to cite facilities for giving chocolate and having it on a nursing cart. But as we all know, chocolate helps your mood to improve—just ask any woman. Happier residents make for less agitated residents; less agitated residents make for happier staff; happier staff makes for better care—you see where this is going.
Then there are techniques that designers have been implementing for years to create a more appealing environment: wandering paths, increased natural light and “life skill stations—or, as we call them, “Nostalgic Nooks” that encourage residents to go back to the time in their lives when they were happiest. It may be when they had a family, tended the garden, got dressed up for a night on the town or toiled at their workbench. For example, a “Nursery Nostalgic Nook” may have a glider rocker, bassinet, baby dolls, changing table. Having a doll with an appropriate weight and size, clothes, eyes that open and a mouth to put a bottle in are key elements, helping to ensure that the resident is not frustrated. I have personally seen residents who were on a downward spiral of disengagement perk right up and start chatting as they rock the doll like a baby.
The lesson is that in our pursuit to provide environments that are safe and healthy, we often strip them down so much that they are left hollow. Spending a couple of days in the hospital may not be too damaging to the individual in this type of environment. Spending the last couple of years of one's life there, however, can cause one to want to stop living. If safe and healthy lifestyles were imposed on all of us, we would never have been able to travel, have a glass of wine with a wonderful steak followed by a desert called “Death by Chocolate.” Balance is the key and it seems that some homes are restoring this much needed key to happiness.