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April 6, 2011

Alzheimer’s patients might be onto a good thing

by Prue Miller

You can keep Metamucil – I’ll take the chocolate

One of the greatest fears of folks approaching the wild years is that the wild part will be taken away.

Just when it’s time to be entirely irresponsible, when you want to throw caution into a force 10 gale, when it’s okay to wear a brown socks with black shoes, or a        size 20 thong with size 18 jeans, when you finally get the nerve to dye the hair red everyone tells you it’s time to act your age.

Bugger that.

People have earned their freedom to make foolish decisions and then roll around in them like a puppy on the lawn.

Many people dread being told what to do – and rightly so. They dread going back in time, and being treated like a junior school boarder, especially when they go        into age care facilities.

Food is one of the greatest irritations to those living in a communal situation. They want really good food – many don’t give a rosy rats backside if they put on           weight, they’ve done their bit by living long enough to need aged care, now many want to decide their own caloric fate.

So it was with great delight that I discovered this story in the New York Times that described a new attitude to dealing with Alzheimer’s patients in care; let them     be happy. From eating when they want to eat (sometimes the dining room experience is just too distracting for Alzheimer’s guests) to even getting what they want     to eat.

“For God’s sake,” said the President of a nursing home in Pheonix “if you like bacon, you can have bacon here.” The article went on to say “Comforting food improves behavior and mood because it sends messages they can still understand: it feels good, therefore ‘I must be in a place where I’m loved.’”

This same centre spends an extraordinary amount of time trawling through patient’s biographies, finding out what they have loved, enjoyed or even sung so that they can keep finding non-pharmacological ways to assist patients enjoy their time – as best as they can.  Even having chocolate on the medication chart, for which they suffered at the hands of the bureaucracy, “The state tried to cite us for having chocolate on the nursing chart. They were like, ‘It’s not a medication.’ Yes, it is. It’s better than Xanax.” says the centre’s director of research. This new attitude to care has good scientific research behind it, and is being followed up by many of the big wigs in the business. The American Institute on Ageing is among a group of big hitters who are financing research into this behavioural posture, trying to find “things that just kind of make the life of an Alzheimer’s patient or his caregiver less burdensome.”

Without doubt I recommend that if you are looking around for care options, its worth investigating the facility’s attitudes to this kind of approach.

When I am in my outrageous doteage, don’t even try and give me anything that’s low calorie, high fibre and great for my heart – just give the damn chocolate and walk away!

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