A New Way To Care For Patients With Dementia

How an Arizona retirement home has found a kinder, gentler way to take care of patients with dementia.

Alexis McKenzie, right, executive director of The Methodist Home of the District of Columbia Forest Side, an Alzheimer's assisted-living facility, puts her hand on the arm of resident Catherine Peake, in Washington, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. (AP)

Alexis McKenzie, right, executive director of The Methodist Home of the District of Columbia Forest Side, an Alzheimer’s assisted-living facility, puts her hand on the arm of resident Catherine Peake, in Washington, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. (AP)

The big facts on dementia and Alzheimer’s are scary.  Five million Americans with Alzheimer’s already, and the big Baby Boom generation just moving into the Alzheimer’s years.

But the little facts are imposing too.  How hard it can be to care, day in and day out, for a loved one or a patient with Alzheimer’s.  And how tough it can be on the aging, struggling victim of dementia.

There’s a push on for a better way.  Less restraint.  Fewer drugs.  More respect.  And maybe more joy, even in the difficulty.

This hour, On Point:  a new, more graceful grappling with Alzheimer’s.

- Tom Ashbrook


Tena Alonzo, education and research director at Beatitudes Campus, a retirement community in Phoenix, Arizona that has been at the forefront of finding new ways to care for people with dementia.

Mary Mittelman, nationally-recognized Alzheimer’s researcher and professor of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.


We’re also featuring in this hour the premiere of a new version of the song “Rhinestone Cowboy” off of country legend Glen Campbell’s upcoming album: “See You There.” (You can pre-order from Amazon here.) Campbell has retired from touring after revealing that he is living with Alzheimer’s disease.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New Yorker: The Sense of an Ending — “One day in September, a woman named Tena Alonzo stopped by Hayes’s room. Alonzo, the director of education and research at the Beatitudes Campus, a retirement community in Phoenix, Arizona, found Hayes lying in a hospital bed that had been lowered to within a foot of the floor, to lessen the risk that he would hurt himself by falling out of it. His face was contorted into a grimace, she later recalled, and he writhed and moaned. Alonzo, who is fifty-two, has spent the past twenty-eight years working with dementia patients—or, in her preferred locution, with people who have trouble thinking.”

The New York Times: Studies Find Mixed Results for Dementia Units — “By their euphemistic names, ye shall know them: The Memory Care Unit. The Reminiscence Neighborhood. Homestead. These special units for residents with dementia have spread throughout the American nursing home industry; more than 16 percent of nursing homes now include one.”

Associated Press: Study: Dementia tops cancer, heart disease in cost — “Cancer and heart disease are bigger killers, but Alzheimer’s is the most expensive malady in the U.S., costing families and society $157 billion to $215 billion a year, according to a new study that looked at this in unprecedented detail.”


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