Ted Simons: A long-term care community in Arizona is receiving national recognition for its best practices in dementia care. It has created replicable ways to decrease drugs, eliminate physical restraints and keep patients more comfortable. Reporter Lori Allen and photographer Scott Olson visited with the campus to see the groundbreaking principles in action.
Philip Young: They've been there, we see those every once in a while.
Lori Allen: JOAN and Philip Young married soon after they met.
Philip Young: Our first date, she laughed at my jokes, and she was a good dancer. And I figured, that's about all I really need. It's been that way ever since. We've been laughing together and having a great time.
Lori Allen: 60 years later, Phil visits his wife several times a day at a place unlike typical dementia communities. Comfort First is the philosophy. With an emphasis on creating a sense of home.
Tena Alonzo: The home they're asking for may not be a reality any longer. But we're looking for those elements that stress the importance of home, those things that connect us to a broader sense of community and those things that ultimately at the end of the day are the things that give us peace. All things really boil down to what makes you comfortable? So the individual who has napped in their living room, the person who likes their recliner better than their bed, should still have the opportunity to have those same kinds of patterns that have always made sense to them. So it's not my reality that's important, it's not what I say that matters, but it's rather what this person says that really counts.
Lori Allen: Alonzo calls the fourth floor the neighborhood. And taking away the dietary rules here helps.
Patient: One is not too fattening.
no, ma'am, it's not.
Tena Alonzo: When people have trouble thinking, when they have dementia it's important to know folks may not have the same kind of clock that everyone else has. And so being able to eat whenever you're hungry is really important. Being able to sleep whenever you want to is really important. So if the person happens to be hungry or thirsty, there's something always available so that will help them provide a sense of comfort and security.
Lori Allen: Alonzo is credited with many of the common sense ideas behind Comfort First. She'll tell you, it's a team effort. Like almost everyone she works with, she got into this career because a loved one suffered.
Tena Alonzo: My grandmother was my mentor. And someone that I looked up to more than anyone else in life. And when she succumbed to dementia, and started to show all the symptoms we normally see, it was heartbreaking for my family. But what I learned out of the experience is that there had to be something more, there had to be quality of life. There had to be an opportunity to embrace who she truly was, so I've been in pursuit of that.
Lori Allen: That pursuit has meant the elimination of restraint, diapers, and many drugs. And instead of scheduled activities, play is spontaneous.
Dr. Maribeth Gallagher: We're trying to get people to realize that indeed there's this person inside, this beautiful, beautiful person. And there are so many other ways to make meaningful connection beyond the language of the brain. Blah, blah, blah, blah. The language of the heart and soul, through touch, through taste, through song, through a kiss, through a smile, all of these things. And from a change perspective, isn't this feasible? Isn't this easy to replicate? Does it cost a lot of money? No. Where's the change taking place? Between our ears. In our hearts. ¶ let me call you sweetheart ¶¶ ¶ I'm in love with you ¶¶
Dr. Maribeth Gallagher: That was beautiful!
Patient: Thank you.
Lori Allen: Gallagher, a professional singer for 30 years, has found a new audience. It happened when she started working for Hospice of the Valley and collaborating with the Comfort First program at Beatitudes.
Dr. Maribeth Gallagher: It's the most fulfilling thing that I've ever done in my life. Every single day. It's difficult, but it's very fulfilling. Think about it -- People with dementia lose their ability to think and interpret. So Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia are diseases of the brain. But they're not diseases of the heart. The soul. Whatever elements of a human being you want to label it.
Karen Mitchell: Everyone can do this. It is changing the way you think about giving the care.
Lori Allen: And the Comfort First philosophy saves money.
Karen Mitchell: When you anticipate someone's needs, you don't have to spend the money on products to keep someone dry. You don't have to buy expensive supplements or nourishments because they're eating good food. When you have someone who is comfortable, the staff that you have doesn't have to spend time trying to fix because they're uncomfortable. So the same staffing that we had back 10, 15 years ago is exactly what we have now. We always make sure that we have staff who know how to take care of the person. And so it is very economical. Being able to know that you help somebody to smile, or feel that there was a special moment is priceless. It is the kind of thing that nurtures your own soul.
Philip Young: This is an intricate type of hanging and tapestry, but we just comment on this almost every time that we come by. Because it's so pretty, you know. She can forget sometimes day-to-day, but it's so nice to, again, be able to see something familiar like that, something we appreciate. Joan's had her memory problems, it goes back oh, eight or 10 years, really. But it was to the point where we always knew we were going to have to have some additional help along the way. And beatitudes has an outstanding program for that kind of memory support.
Christine Parish: It's kind of funny sometimes, because she'll joke, and she'll say, oh, I know he's messing around with other women. And he laughs and he gets a chuckle out of it, and he brings daisy his dog over and says, now, what she tells you I've been with other women, this is the only woman I've been with. And he has his little dog in his arms. And she has a great sense of humor, and he does too, and they're just -- They're so loving. You can see it when they're together.
Joan Young: Oh, you're so cute! Honey I love you! Next to daddy!
Philip Young: We get by. We know we just have to take it one day at a time. There's comfort in that.
Ted Simons: Comfort First considers what some call innovation, a simple common sense in allowing residents to live the flexibility in a relatively unstructured manner within a long-term care environment. For more information check the website, beatitudescampus.org.
Ted Simons: Friday on "Arizona Horizon," it's "The Journalists' Round Table," we'll discuss the latest polls on the governor's race and we'll have more on an Arizona congressional candidate announcing he has cancer. That's on the next "The Journalists' Round Table."
Ted Simons: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.