Dementia is one of those terrible conditions where the person spends all his life in absolute confusion. Imagine that you have no idea what you did yesterday. And to top it off, there is severe pain that you can’t put in words. For many people around the world, this has become nothing but a reality they have to face daily.
Alicia Bonner, who joined Northeastern University, is quite interested to delve in deep into this topic. She’s an associate professor in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences’ School of Nursing. According to her, almost 50% of the people in nursing homes are victims of dementia. Anti-psychotic medications can be effective, but studies suggest that not only are they ineffective, but they might even have some serious side effects. Unfortunately, nursing home residents still intake these drugs.
“Antipsychotics may seem to help because they pacify some patients,” Bonner said. “However, there are better ways to prevent and treat confusion and combative behavior.”
Bonner, in 2011, helped establish the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care. It is a public-private initiative pinpointing on antipsychotic medications overuse. She has received a lot of accolades for her work, including the one with the CMS team. According to her, right from Environmental modifications and daily routine adjustments to music and aromatherapy, the strategies to help people with dementia are many and easy to implement.
“Most important, caregivers need to try to understand behaviors as a form of communication,” she said. “The patient is trying nothing other than to communicate but may be unable to express what he or she needs or wants.”
Bonner has been working in healthcare since the 1990’s when she decided to pursue it all her life so that she can bring positive change in the community. She believes that every dementia patient needs proper care of in a certain way. Making them more comfortable is very important. Whereas “researchers need to figure out the best strategies for the best outcomes in these different settings”.
Bonner has conducted broad coalitions in every state. These coalitions saw doctors, nurses, consumers, families, government agencies as well as advocates. They brought in their unique takes on the solutions we can incorporate in treating dementia. The Partnership, which held the coalitions, also saw provision for quality training for facility leaders. They will then educate their own employees in best practices.
The initiative, in a short amount of time, helped to improve the statistics of the treatment of dementia. Bonner, however, still believes that a lot needs to reach a conclusion. “If you change ten things in a person’s environment, you need to understand which of those changes are influencing better outcomes,” she explained.