The demand for Alzheimer’s care has doubled in the last 20 years, and the population of those needing care is expected to nearly triple in size in the next few decades, according to data from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). To meet this demand, memory care providers are developing evidence-based programs that seek to manage and even delay symptoms.
For one Ohio-based provider, The Lantern Group, repeating everyday tasks with residents—sometimes hundreds of times—has played a central role in its program.
The comapany’s active senior lifestyle approach is one experts believe can reap success in managing and improving outcomes for memory care residents, and The Lantern Group already has some data to back up this idea.
Ray of hope
South Russell, Ohio-based The Lantern Group operates three assisted living and memory care residences throughout the northeastern part of Ohio, and is one provider capitalizing on an active senior lifestyle trend in combating Alzheimer’s disease.
CEO Jean Makesh highlighted the concept of neuroplasticity during the NIC 2017 Fall Conference in Chicago.
The concept revolves around a person’s ability to mold and shape the cognitive capacity and overall “functional size” of their brain, he explained.
“Research shows that there is significant evidence of neuroplasticity even in a 90 year-old brain — so there is a ray of hope,” Makesh said. “For neuroplasticity to occur, any task or anything that you learn, you have to repeat at least 400 to 450 times.”
In Lantern’s communities, caregivers act more as teachers who oversee a small group of residents, and they model tasks and behaviors that residents need to work on.
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“If there’s a task that the client has to learn — let’s say that the client has to learn how to feed himself — then that is something that is practiced over and over. We need to get that 400 to 450 repetitions,” Makesh said.
In the five years since Makesh has implemented this program at The Lantern, the group has been able to increase the attention span in some residents from two minutes to almost 28 minutes, he explained.
Further, the organization has been able to minimize elopement by bringing the outside in. The Lantern Group has installed a simulated light feature that mimics the sunrise and sunset in the common area of its Chagrin Valley community in South Russell, as well as creating an indoor fountain display at its Madison, Ohio community.
A combined approach
The Lantern Group approach is one that has endorsements from experts in the memory care field.
Utilizing current pharmaceuticals available in the market, in conjunction with promoting an active senior lifestyle, is critical to managing Alzheimer’s disease, according Maria Carrillo, chief science officer at the Chicago-based national non-profit Alzheimer’s Association.
“[The] combination therapy approach will help us take Alzheimer’s from a killer to a chronically managed disease,” she said during the NIC panel.
And despite the growing prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in the senior population, society’s health conscious mindset may slow the growth rate and play a role in preventing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, said Pinchas Cohen, MD, dean at the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.
“That’s a trend that we need to capitalize on,” he said.
Written by Carlo Calma