Friends and memories of the professional kind

I met with Jane P a nurse I’ve worked with and a friend for many years. We were discussing patients with dementia we had on a unit we developed together some of which are in my book. When I gave her the chapter on “Ben” to read, she remembered the odd way she had to put him to bed at night. Ben was a man with advanced Alzheimer’s disease and multi infarct dementia. He hated to be touched and his combativeness was a problem at times. Jane spent a long time teaching the staff to read his body language and avoid him when he showed signs of agitation.

One of Ben’s problem behaviors included refusing to stay in his room at night and wandering in and out of other resident’s rooms. When he became agitated it was hard to get him back to his room at night and it was becoming a major problem. Not wanting to ask the physician for medications to help this problem, we searched around for other ways to control him.

One evening Jane was playing with her cat at home, getting it to follow a laser light around the room. She decided to try the same thing with Ben. It worked! She would shine it on a wall at eye level until Ben saw it. Then she gradually lowered the light beam to the floor and down the hall. Ben followed it to his room. However, Ben frequently just turned around and came back out again. He often was awake until 2 or 3 AM with the staff doing all they could to keep him out of other resident’s rooms.

Jane liked the idea of using light to control Ben and she found an article about research involving dementia patients and colored lights. The research indicated that people with dementia are attracted to blue lights. We tried putting a blue light bulb in the lamp in Ben’s room. We were amazed by his response. Not only could we lead him back to his room with the laser, but as long as the blue light was on, Ben was happy to stay in his room and usually fell asleep on our first try.

Just wanted to share this memory in case someone else is having the same type of problem. It’s worth a try.



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