Following are a sampling of stories and observations from Ecumen Awakenings team members:

Improving Interaction and Eating:  Cleo’s dementia was accompanied by a paranoia that people were trying to poison her.  She refused to let people into her room, often screaming to them to ‘get out.’  She’d use her walker to block people from approaching her.  Antipsychotics helped to stop the screaming, but she also became a shell of a person.  She stared blankly and dropped about a third of her weight.  Working with our physician, we began to taper the medication to try to remove the haze she was in.  As we started to taper back we began to integrate massaging her hands.  As we continued to reduce the medication further over a course of several weeks, we combined the touch with more conversation, focusing on topics that we knew were of interest.  She had lived on a family farm for years, and we’d ask about that, which would draw her out.  Over the course of several months, we’ve eliminated her antipsychotics.  She’s gained weight.  Her paranoia about the poisoning of the food and relying only on a diet of Ensure has been replaced by regular meals.  She now eats with others.  She’s allowed us to hang pictures on what was a spartan wall.  We’re seeing very few outbursts.  She is much more at peace and so are those who share life with her . . . “

Sharing Joy of Knitting:  “After a two-week hospital stay due to hyperglycemic episodes, urinary infection and general weakness, Hope was extremely restless and agitated.  Unable to stand or sit still, she slept fewer than 20 minutes at a time and required constant 1 to 1 supervision.  She had early-stage dementia, but diagnostic testing showed no neurological conditions beyond that. Over the next three months, we learned a lot about her.  We had conversations about knitting, which we learned she loved.  She’d share favorite colors and techniques.  We helped trigger other good memories.  Gradually we gained more trust.  We incorporated massage and aroma therapy.  Over time these visiting and relaxation techniques helped draw down her cocktail of antipsychotics.  After three months, she was able to return home.  With her improved cognition, and support of neighbors and friends, she no longer needs nursing home care . . . “

Walking Again:  “Each day mini successes are being achieved, which are wonderful to see. Our latest success story is of a resident who uses an EZ stand for transferring and has very little mobility. The majority of her day is spent in her wheelchair or in her bed. Last week, she expressed a desire to walk again. This resident was able to walk 15 feet with assistance. She was so excited that she was able to achieve this and was going around telling people “I walked 15 feet . . .”

Enjoying Church Again:  “Margaret is a very mobile person, but she falls often.  In fact, we had two residents who took it upon themselves to follow Margaret every time she came into the dining room to guard against her falling.  We wondered if Margaret’s balance issue could be resolved if we reduced her antipsychotics.  We set up a reduction schedule with our physician and observed what occurred.  Over the course of a month we noticed she wasn’t falling or stumbling as often.  Soon she went a full week without falling!  She engaged more with others.  Margaret’s husband is a key partner in this work.  He admitted to having been embarrassed to escort her to weekly Mass.  She’d rarely sit through the first reading.  Attending and participating in Mass together had been a big part of their life.  He’s finding she can now sit through the Mass with no or very limited interruptions.  We’re cherishing this new time with her . . . “

New Accomplishments:  “Before we began working with Alice, she was Hoyer lift and chair bound. She had gone from an EZ stand to a Hoyer lift due to pain in her leg and continued strength loss. We incorporated a number of passive and active resistance exercises, which have helped her retrain her muscles and strengthened her body to the point where she can now stand in the EZ stand! She stands for 3 minutes on average, although at one point she was able to stand for 5 minutes! We were so excited about this, especially when we asked her how it felt to stand, and she responded “Awesome!”  She had a regularly scheduled dose of Risperdal 0.125 mg for agitation/behaviors, which has moved to “as needed” order and is rarely being used . . . “

Increased Engagement:  “Just wanted to tell you something we have noticed with a resident who had his Seroquel discontinued. We are seeing a different gentleman. He is now purposely moving around in his wheelchair, looks up at us when spoken to, and he follows as we approach and walk away.  He currently static stands for 2 minutes and now we’re going to see if we can move to taking steps.   It’s wonderful to see . . . “

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