Recently I was walking through the facility and noticed the residents were playing bingo. For almost 30 years now I have heard the infamous “B9….that’s B9” echoing throughout the halls. Why? Why is it that we think the residents love this game?  I personally do not like bingo, regardless of the jackpot. The residents in long term health care facilities hit the jackpot of crackers, peanut butter cups and sugar free cookies. Wow. Those prizes just make me leap for joy, said no one EVER. If you watch the bingo game long enough, I think you will find that the residents, who are mostly cognitively and visually impaired, really aren’t playing the game. The activity staff and nursing staff hover about, covering the numbers, yelling BINGO and choose the prize for the resident, who seems to be unmoved by the lottery just won.

In my opinion, activities should be geared toward the individual, not a mass audience. You may love having the Bible read to you. I may enjoy hearing music from the Big Band Era .Someone else may enjoy seeing pictures of cars from the 40’s and 50’s. Individuals. That’s what every dementia patient is; an individual.

I am a major, major, MAJOR advocate of person centered care. I believe that we as providers in long term care should know about the resident and also KNOW the person underneath the mask of dementia. Let me share this story to stress my point even more.

My own mother was in a nursing home in another state. She was the wife of a lifelong pastor, a Southern Baptist at that. She always led the women’s Bible studies, directed the choir, played the piano and organ and folded every single church bulletin that was out on Sunday mornings. She loved God, her husband, her children and her church, in that exact order.

Alzheimer’s had changed many things for my mother. She was forgetful to the point where she was no longer safe to do much on her own. This “home” my sister and I chose for mom seemed okay, and appropriate place for her.  We as a family could not afford the fancy bells and whistles type facility, for two reasons. First we were preacher’s kids, so no gifts or inheritances had fallen on us, and secondly, my sister and I both worked in health care. Enough said.

Person centered care would have focused on my mother’s spiritual needs. Bible studies, church services, gospel sing activities and things that focused on who mom was before Alzheimer’s. 

I walked into my mother’s room one day to visit her and was floored when I heard the music coming from the radio in her room. The station was playing hip hop and rap music.  Seriously. No kidding. Rap music. My mother was listening to Snoop Doggie Doggie  little-dog or big-dog, something like that. I really don’t know what kind of dog she was listening to, but I do know it was not the type of music this sweet, Southern Baptist, preacher’s wife would ever listen to. Mom would be on her knees praying for that poor dog, if she had heard what Doggie Dog was saying!

I approached the nursing home staff about the music in mom’s room. They explained to me that mom liked music and they were not aware of what station the radio was on. They simply turned the radio on and walked away. Yes, my mom liked music, but more along the lines of Amazing Grace or How Great Thou Art.   My mother was indeed being stimulated, sensory stimulated, but nothing more. A loud roaring delivery truck would provide the same type of stimulation as this. Person centered care would have not only provided sensory stimulation, but also brought familiarity, a sense of wellbeing and comfort.  It would not have taken the staff person maybe an additional 15 seconds to turn on the plentiful gospels CD’s laying right there in front of the radio.  

It takes knowing the resident to accomplish person centered care. When I age, I will scream, kick and yell if I am hauled to the dining room and made to sit in front of bingo cards. I would rather be allowed to sit outside, smell the fresh air, watch the traffic go by, listen to gospel music…and of course have someone read books to be. 

Simple things. Small things. Things relevant to the patient. Am I asking too much?




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