Ecumen, a Minnesota company, currently operates 70 senior communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, and Idaho.  Its revenues (2009) were $125.8 million.  Its mission?  To create “home” for older adults, wherever they choose to live.  Indeed, the word “Ecumen” comes from the Greek word for home: “Oikos.” 

Recently, Ecumen, working with physicians, residents, and family members at its Sunrise nursing home in Two Harbors, Minnesota, eliminated the administration of psychotropic drugs and decreased the use of antidepressants by one-half.

Eva Lanigan is an Ecumen clinical director who led the work. She says that "The chaos level is down, but the noise is up--the noise of people laughing, talking, much more engaged with life. It's amazing."  

Here’s the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's coverage of “Awakenings” and a YouTube video of the program in action.

The Senior Watchdog has not always been a big fan of nursing homes.  If you've been following these blogs, you've read about the horrific kinds of abuse that can happen in these places. 

As it turns out, however, some nursing homes can actually be Great Places!  Here's one of them:

For the past dozen years, Beatitudes provides a unique program of "person-centered" care: Dementia residents are allowed pretty much anything that provides comfort--even alcohol.  Tena Alonzo, director of research notes, "Whatever your vice is, we're your folks. 

And why not?  There's no cure for Alzheimer's, and no effective medical treatment for sufferers.  Researchers are finding that creating positive emotional experiences for Alzheimer's patients diminishes distress and behavior problems that are frequent side effects of these diseases. 
Once, Alonzo says, "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."

Beatitudes eliminated anything potentially considered restraining, from deep-seated wheelchairs that hinder standing up to bedrails (some beds are lowered and protected by mats).  Perhaps most important, the center drastically reduced dosing of residents with antipsychotics and medications considered primarily for "staff convenience," focusing on relieving pain, according to Alonzo.

The National Institute on Aging and the Administration on Aging are studying "Things that . . . make the life of an Alzheimer's patient and his or her caregiver less burdensome," says Sidney Stahl, chief of the Individual Behavioral Processes branch of the Institute on Aging.
Techniques include using food, scheduling, art, music and exercise to generate positive emotions; engaging patients in activities that salvage fragments of their skills; and helping caregivers to be more accepting and competent.

And at Beatitudes, the occasional cocktail or Snickers bar!

The Orders of St John Care Trust own and manage several British nursing homes, including Coombe End Court in Marlborough, Wiltshire.

Pictured above is the "reminiscence room" at the property.  Its intentional 1950s look helps residents recall memories of the good times of their youth.  

The room is used to help calm residents whose Alzheimer's/dementia causes agitation.  According to staff personnel at Coombe End Court, using the room has led to a "dramatic drop" in the use of antipsychotic drugs.

Sue Linsley, the manager of the home says, "The reminiscence room plays an important role in reducing the use of medication.  It's very, very effective. . . .  
Our clients can come in and it calms them down. This proves that you don’t need to use antipsychotics all the time." celebrates Coombe End Court: a Great Place!

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