Tailor Things for the Elderly

Nursing home activities need to offer individual flexibility, expert says

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TUESDAY, March 11, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Individualized programs are the best way to make nursing home residents feel truly at home, says a geriatrics expert at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

Research by Dr. William Banks suggests that one-size-fits-all programs -- games, pet interaction, music therapies, holiday celebrations -- don't necessarily make nursing home life more enjoyable for everyone. What one person loves, another may hate.

His findings appear in the current issue of Geriatrics and Aging.

One of Banks' studies examined whether visits by dogs and other animals -- called animal-assisted therapy -- makes nursing home residents feel less lonely. It does, but only for people who like animals.

For people who don't like animals, forcing this type of therapy on them would hardly make living in the nursing home more pleasant.

In the same way, people who love music would be soothed and fulfilled taking part in music therapy. However, people who dislike music would find that form of therapy more punishment than pleasure.

Banks' research also suggests that more isn't necessarily better. Even the nursing home residents who loved dogs felt overwhelmed by multiple animal therapy sessions each week. Banks found that a single 30-minute animal therapy session a week was sufficient to combat loneliness in nursing home residents.

More information

Here's where you can find more about all kinds of senior health issues.

SOURCE: Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center, news release, February 2003


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