92-year-old Norma had a strange and heartbreaking routine.
Every night around 5:30 p.m ., she stood up and told the staff at her Ohio nursing home that she needed to leave. When they asked why, she said she needed to go home to take care of her mom. Her mama, of course, had long since passed away.
Behavior like Norma’s is quite common for older folks suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Walter, another man in the same assisted living facility, demanded breakfast from the staff every night around 7:30.
Jean Makesh, CEO of Lantern facilitated living facilities, told me that he fulfills folks with tales like these every day. It’s their stories that inspired him to induce some changes at Lantern.
“I imagined I knew a great deal about elderly care. The more and more time I was investing with my patrons, that’s when I realized, ‘Oh my deity, I have no clue.'”
Confusion is common in Alzheimer’s patients, but Makesh knew there had to be some way to minimize these conflicts.
A big adherent in the relevant recommendations that our environment has an enormous effect on us, he started supposing big and way outside the box.
“What if we design an environment that looks like outside? ” he told. “What if I can have a sunup and sunset inside the building? What if I’m able to have the moon and stars come out? What if I build a division that takes inhabitants back to the ‘3 0s and ‘4 0s? “
And that was just the beginning. He also researched sound therapy. And aromatherapy. And carpet that looked like grass. No mind was off-limits.
What he came up with was a truly unique memory-care facility. And after testing the concept in Lantern’s Madison, Ohio, facility, Makesh is opening two new places this year.
Instead of chambers or units, each occupant gets a “home” on a quiet little indoor street reminiscent of the neighborhoods many of them grew up in.
Instead of a boring panel ceiling, inhabitants look up and ensure a digital sky, which develops dimmer late in the day to help keep their biological clock in tune.
For Makesh, this isn’t just about stimulating patients comfy, though. He wants to change how we think about the endgame of severe dementia.
Makesh said one of the frustrating shortcomings of most nurse facilities is that they make conflicts with unnatural environments and schedules, and they try to solve them by throwing antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medications at patients. In other terms, when someone has severe dementia, we often give up on them. From there, they stop get the engagement their brain needs to thrive.
Of course, we’re a long way from a remedy for Alzheimer’s.
But Makesh’s project shows that when we think strategically about varying the environmental issues and focus on helping people relearn essential self-care and hygiene skills, the near-impossible becomes possible.
“In 5 year, we’re going to[ be able to] rehabilitate our patrons where they can live independently in our environment, ” he told. “In 10 times, we’re going to be able to send them back home.”
He knows it’s a lofty objective. And whether he’ll gratify it remains to be seen. But in the meantime, he’s proud to own one of the few places that offers something pretty rare in cases of severe dementia: hope .