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November 19, 2018

An old jukebox, a rotary phone, and a restored 1959 Ford Thunderbird: Inside the dementia care center recreating the 1950s

Daily Briefing

    Glenner Town Square is the first adult daycare center in the United States built around reminiscence therapy—a form of therapy intended to spark personal memories for individuals with Alzheimer's disease and dementia, Sumanthi Reddy reports for the Wall Street Journal.

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    What is reminiscence therapy?

    According to Reddy, reminiscence therapy is frequently used in nursing homes abroad, but is just starting to make its way to the United States. Dorthe Berntsen, a psychology professor and head of the Center on Autobiographical Memory Research at Aarhus University in Denmark, has done research on reminiscence therapy that's had encouraging results. Her most recent study tested a five-week reminiscence therapy program and found that individuals receiving reminiscence therapy did not show improvements in cognitive tests, but did show improvements in talking about their own personal memories when compared with those receiving standard care.

    "We know dementia makes it hard for patients to remember the recent past, like the last 10 years, whereas the older memories are preserved better for a longer time, especially memories from childhood and early adulthood," Berntsen said. She added that while reminiscence therapy "doesn't cure dementia … it does provide a context where these people have a better connection to their past and to their sense of identity."

    A recent Cochrane review found the benefits of reminiscence therapy were small and inconsistent, but that there was some evidence the practice could improve cognition, communication, mood, and quality of life.

    Myrra Vernooij-Dassen, a professor at Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, said the results of the review were "promising." She added, "People with dementia still are people with their capacities, with their dignity. We can use these capacities and reminiscence is one of the ways that we can stimulate people with dementia. If they have the right treatment then they can stay stable for really many years."

    Inside Glenner Town Square

    Glenner Town Square was created from a partnership between the George G. Glenner Alzheimer's Family Centers, a nonprofit organization in California, and Senior Helpers, a national in-home senior care provider.

    Glenner is 9,000-square-feet and is built to look exactly like the period between 1953 and 1961—when most patients at the center were in the prime of their lives—with old rotary phones, a restored 1959 Ford Thunderbird, an old jukebox, and more. The Town Square also features 14 storefronts, including a library, a diner, and a pet store. Throughout the day, patients are guided to each storefront to do specific activities. According to Scott Tarde, CEO of the Glenner Centers, "In the library, they'll do everything from puzzles to having storytellers come in. In the pet store, animal therapy."

    Tarde acknowledged that the idealized 1950s setting of the Town Square might not resonate with every cultural background, but said the company is "very sensitive and aware of history and absolutely will recognize history, Civil Rights, and cultural days, weeks, and months," with varying activities for their diverse patient population.

    Glenner and Senior Helpers have plans to expand their Town Squares to other cities and already have received interest in the concept. Peter Ross, CEO of Senior Helpers, said, "We'd like to get between 10 and 20 sold the first year. We think it's going to go very well. The sky's the limit." The partners hope to have 200 Town Squares built within the next five years (Reddy, Wall Street Journal, 9/18; Hurley, The Atlantic, 9/18).

    Get 5 strategies to provide cost-efficient Alzheimer’s and dementia care

     Building a Financially Sustainable Alzheimer's Disease & Memory Disorders Program

    Over 5.3 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer's disease and related memory disorders and the number is rising. On top of increased demand, reimbursement processes fail to meet the complex needs of these patients who require multifaceted care.

    Here are the five key strategies that a program of any scope and size can implement to provide cost-efficient Alzheimer's and dementia care.

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