Sunday, May 15, 2016

Steve: Simple Practical Things Make a Difference

Råslätt 2016

On Friday, we visited a nursing home in an area called Råslätt. Marie Ernstt-Bravell, a faculty member in Gerontology, took us there. She said the nursing homes in Råslätt were the best in the area. Why?  It's the part of town where a lot of immigrants have settled. They are happy to get jobs in nursing homes and they are good caregivers. Marie brought the cabinet minister responsible for aging issues to Råslätt to see the nursing homes here, because the excel at what they do, even though it is perceived by the broader community as a slum. We had to point that out to the students, since it does not look like a slum at all, not by US standards.

We visited a program in one of the nursing homes run by an enthusiastic physical therapist. We had actually seen the program in its early stages 3 years ago with the last class we took to Sweden. It is an exercise program for persons with dementia, specifically using various exercise machines. As the PT explained, their cognition is impaired but not their bodies. We saw one class, minus the usual music that gets played while residents exercise. Like in any gym, residents worked out on a machine and then rotated to the next machine.

The PT explained that it is fairly easy to train people to use the machines, despite their cognitive problems.  And there is only one way to use the machines so residents can't get in trouble on them. When the music is blasting with 60s music, there are lots of smiles and laughs.

The program is using the equipment they obtained at the start. The PT said he wants to replace some of the machines. He now has a better idea about which machines work better for this population. In particular, machines should not be difficult to get on or off. The cross trainer they have now works best, but people are able to use all the machines.

When the minister visited, one of the residents was doing leg presses with over 200 pounds of weights.

There has been a small study of the program, which shows positive results. In addition, there are subjective impressions. The staff reports that residents sleep better after exercise, need less care and have lower anxiety. Almost everyone who tried the program has been able to do it.

A student asked the PT what was his favorite part of the program. He said, "The laughs; the smiles on their faces. Residents are always surprising us. Don't underestimate what an older person can do."

He hopes that the program will spread to other homes, but so far there has not been money to do so.

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