Monday, September 12, 2016

A Place for Old People

Our society is 'Yoof' oriented and seems not to like very much the very young and the very old, and to make matters worse we are an 'aging' society.  While people are living longer by far compared to just a century ago, we are intent on reducing the numbers of babies wherever we can. This will make us on average even older as the next few decades pass. And we are only just grasping the nettle.

In Oz the Knights of the Southern Cross, of which I am one, virtually pioneered aged care back in the middle of the century and we were followed by several other organisations and even Government in providing facilities. Today we are the third largest provider in the nation. Homes and nursing homes are found everywhere today thanks to those efforts.

But there is still the matter of Dignity. Especially for those whose minds have followed their bodies into severe decline.

Chances are that even a chap of my fortitude and constitution will one day forget that I was a King and a Knight who rode steel steeds; that I fought  enemies and cured the sick of heart and mind. Even I can see that not all who wore armour died young and good. Some of us soldiered on; perhaps to have time to get our sins forgiven. But some old soldiers were not only forgotten but forgot themselves.

So we try to take care of them.

A gentleman, Evan Porter, came by to show us what Jean Makesh is doing. Jean, a chap, is the CEO of a facility.

One man turned nursing home design on its head 
when he created this stunning facility.
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 mother. Her mom, 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 assisted living facilities, says he meets folks with stories like these every day. It's their stories that inspired him to make some changes at Lantern.
"I thought I knew a lot about elderly care. The more and more time I was spending with my clients, that's when I realized, 'Oh my god, 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 believer in the idea that our environment has an enormous effect on us, he started thinking big — and way outside the box.
"What if we design an environment that looks like outside?" he said. "What if I can have a sunrise and sunset inside the building? What if I'm able to have the moon and stars come out? What if I build a unit that takes residents back to the '30s and '40s?"
And that was just the beginning. He also researched sound therapy. And aromatherapy. And carpet that looked like grass. No idea 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 locations this year.
Instead of rooms or units, each resident 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, residents look up and see a digital sky, which grows dimmer late in the day to help keep their biological clocks in tune.
Throughout the day, nature sounds and fresh aromas like peppermint or citrus are piped in.
Some studies have shown that this kind of aromatherapy may indeed have some merits for improving cognitive functioning in Alzheimer's patients.
There's even a little "main street" where residents can gather.
For Makesh, this isn't just about making patients comfortable, though. He wants to change how we think about the endgame of severe dementia.
The insides of the rooms aren't too shabby, either.
Makesh said one of the frustrating shortcomings of most nursing facilities is that they create conflicts with unnatural environments and schedules, and they try to solve them by throwing antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medications at patients. In other words, when someone has severe dementia, we often give up on them. From there, they stop getting the engagement their brain needs to thrive.
Of course, we're a long way from a cure for Alzheimer's.
But Makesh's project shows that when we think strategically about altering the environment and focus on helping people relearn essential self-care and hygiene skills, the near-impossible becomes possible.
"In five years, we're going to [be able to] rehabilitate our clients where they can live independently in our environment," he said. "In 10 years, we're going to be able to send them back home."
He knows it's a lofty goal. And whether he'll meet 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.
A very big difference from the usual nursing home corridors.   

He has permanent drinking rights in the Tavern.

Some things are easily forgotten. Like Birthdays for instance.

Today is Tasmania's 213th birthday, conveniently ignored by the Tasmanian Government and academics, who wish not to be politically-incorrect. On this day, 12th September 1803, a young 23 y.o. Lt. John Bowen RN came ashore at Risdon Cove with 48 other souls to found the first British settlement of Tasmania. 

23 years old. Leading a ship full of chaps in waters and lands previously unseen and uncharted. A fine and brave young chap. 

From those harsh and struggling roots, the beautiful State of Tasmania had its beginnings. 

Bowen's biography, "John Bowen and the Founding of Tasmania" recognise his contribution and if that is 'offensive' to a radical, minority group, though well funded by the tax-payer, then that is simply too bad.



  1. This makes perfect sense. Having worked in a similar capacity and having resisted the rapacious all consuming corporate drive to maximise profit at any price, I was often fascinated at the length staff would go to, to subvert corporate greed disguised as "policy" while intent on protecting their clients from the ravages of Head office accountants.
    Peter H.

    1. There are so many selfless folk in the aged care 'Industry', but of course all the news agencies are interested in is the rare horror story.

  2. What a fabulous idea to try and help dementia patients. It is a difficult affliction both for the sufferer and the loved ones of the sufferer.

    I will be interested to know how the treatment progresses :-)

    1. You could look him up in a year or two on Google. That is if google hasn't succumbed and forgotten what it is for. But indeed, it is a dreadful illness and the carers and loving ones are hard pressed.


Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..